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“The performances had shape and grace and ample room to breathe, but they never lacked mystery or intensity.” — The Boston Globe

“The Chiara’s deeply personalized performance felt so vital” — The New York Times



“Music is well said to be the speech of angels; in fact, nothing among utterances allowed to man is felt to be so divine. It brings us near the infinite.” — Thomas Carlyle

Regardless of culture or style, music has always been experienced as a direct pathway to the spirit. In Haydn’s own description of his great wordless oratorio, he wrote, “Each movement is expressed by purely instrumental music in such a fashion that it produces the deepest impression in the soul of even the most uninstructed listener.”

Haydn’s timeless masterpiece of spiritual music was conceived as a multimedia event combining special lighting, spoken words, and music. On Saturday, February 17 at at 8 PM the highly acclaimed Chiara String Quartet will recreate the candlelit ambience of the 1787 premiere in Cádiz’s Oratorio de la Santa Cueva.

At 7:00 PM, Artistic Director Michael Parloff will introduce the work and its history in a half-hour multimedia preview.

Haydn explained the origin of the work in the preface to the 1801 edition:

“Some fifteen years ago I was requested by a canon of Cádiz to compose instrumental music on the Seven Last Words of Our Savior On the Cross. It was customary at the Cathedral of Cádiz to produce an oratorio every year during Lent, the effect of the performance being not a little enhanced by the following circumstances. The walls, windows, and pillars of the church were hung with black cloth, and only one large lamp hanging from the center of the roof broke the solemn darkness. At midday, the doors were closed and the ceremony began. After a short service the bishop ascended the pulpit, pronounced the first of the seven words (or sentences) and delivered a discourse thereon. This ended, he left the pulpit and fell to his knees before the altar. The interval was filled by music. The bishop then in like manner pronounced the second word, then the third, and so on, the orchestra following on the conclusion of each discourse. My composition was subject to these conditions, and it was no easy task to compose seven adagios lasting ten minutes each, and to succeed one another without fatiguing the listeners; indeed, I found it quite impossible to confine myself to the appointed limits.”

— Franz Joseph Haydn


Joseph Haydn

The Seven Last Words of Christ for string quartet

Watch the Chiara String Quartet perform Ravel’s String Quartet (1st mvt) from memory:

Watch Part 1 of Haydn’s Seven Last Words of Christ (Zemlinsky Quartet):

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