Saturday 31 March 2012

The Seven Last Words of Christ at St. Peter Mancroft

On Sunday 25th March 2012 The Cavick Quartet performed Joseph Haydn's The Seven Last Words of Our Saviour on the Cross with Meditations by the Revd. Robert Fruehwirth. This piece of music was the result of a commission by Cadiz Cathedral in 1787. The Cavick Quartet are Ben Lowe - Violin, Anne Vallins - Violin, Ben Payne - Viola and Chris Lawrence - Cello. This was an emotional evening to be at St. Peter Mancroft Church in Norwich. This is Haydn's own account of the background to the work.

'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.'

The Cavick Quartet and Revd. Robert Fruehwirth made this a night to reflect on Our Saviour on the Cross. Father, into your hands I commit my spirit. At the end there is a desolate silence. The miracle and promise of the Resurrection has yet to be revealed.

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