The fascinating story behind the composition of Haydn’s “Seven Last Words” pairs beautifully to the intriguing series of arrangements which followed. Commissioned by a canon at the cathedral in Cadiz, the work is designed as a series of meditative ‘sonatas’ which reflect upon sermons given during Lent, each taking one of Christ’s final utterances as its subject.
Haydn’s original 1786 version was scored for a fairly standard classical orchestra, with his own arrangement for string quartet appearing in the following year. There followed a reduction for piano which, although prepared by his publisher, met with the composer’s approval. Then, in 1795 whilst returning home from endeavours in London, Haydn was somewhat startled upon hearing his work in a version for chorus and orchestra in the Bavarian town of Passau, prompting him to construct his own refined arrangement with this same scoring.
In this exciting and thoughtful arrangement for wind quintet made by Ere Lievonen, the story of this popular work continues to unfold. This wholly original version draws upon the sustaining possibilities of the stringed instruments, yet offers an entirely new world of tone colours and effects. These five distinctly different instruments create a magnificent range of timbral combinations, and this fresh and new approach to a well-loved masterpiece is equally innovative, respectful and musically ravishing.
Chris Cartner Sidney, February 25, 2015