1796: Haydn: The Seven Last Words of Our Saviour on the Cross (Choral version), age 54

Originally written for orchestra:

The Seven Last Words of Our Saviour on the Cross (German: Die sieben letzten Worte unseres Erlösers am Kreuze) is an orchestral work by Joseph Haydn, commissioned in 1786 for the Good Friday service in Spain.

Original orchestral version (1786)

  1. Introduzione in D minor – Maestoso ed Adagio
  2. Sonata II (“Hodie mecum eris in paradiso”) in C minor, ending in C major – Grave e cantabile
  3. Sonata III (“Mulier, ecce filius tuus”) in E major – Grave
  4. Sonata IV (“Deus meus, Deus meus, utquid dereliquisti me”) in F minor – Largo
  5. Sonata V (“Sitio”) in A major – Adagio
  6. Sonata VI (“Consummatum est”) in G minor, ending in G major – Lento
  7. Sonata VII (“In manus tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum”) in E-flat major –
  8. Largo
  9. Il terremoto (Earthquake) in C minor – Presto e con tutta la forza


  • 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 bassoons,
  • 2 horns, 2 trumpets
  • timpani
  • strings

Adapted for a string quartet:

Haydn tadapted it in 1787 for string quartet, then approved a version for solo piano in the same year.

Adapted in 1796 as an oratorio:

He added both solo voices and a churus.

He was paid with a cake:

The priest who commissioned the work, Don José Sáenz de Santa María, had reconditioned the Oratorio de la Santa Cueva, and paid Haydn in a most unusual way – sending the composer a cake which Haydn discovered was filled with gold coins.

At the request of his publisher, Artaria, the composer in 1787 produced a reduced version for string quartet: Haydn’s Opus 51.

Choral version (1796)

In the course of his second journey to London (1794–1795),[7] in Passau, Haydn had heard a revised version of his work, amplified to include a chorus, prepared by the Passau Kapellmeister Joseph Friebert. The words were not the original Latin but pietist poetry, written in German. Haydn was impressed with the new work and decided to improve on it, preparing his own choral version. He had the assistance of Baron Gottfried van Swieten, who revised the lyrics used by Friebert.[8] This was the first work in a serial collaboration with van Swieten as librettist that continued with the later oratorios The Creation and The Seasons.[9] The choral version was privately premiered in Vienna on 26 March 1796 before an audience of the nobility, under the sponsorship of the Gesellschaft der Associierten. The public premiere was on 1 April 1798, sponsored by the Tonkünstler-Societät, a Viennese benefit society for musicians. The work was published in 1801.[10]

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