What could be a bigger challenge than giving musical expression and shape to “Die sieben letzten Worte”, the seven last sentences that Jesus spoke on the cross: giving feeling and articulation to the most charged text in the world, but without the words? Haydn did this more than successfully in 1787 with these seven string quartets.
The narrative character of these seven sonatas for string quartet really makes its mark on the listener. The slow tempi of the dramatic opening and each of the seven parts that follow, and indeed the sheer length of the piece all bring us into an almost trance-like state: an hour of adagios with many contrasts of atmosphere and feeling, and then suddenly the bombas- tic and shocking earthquake (Terremoto) of the final two minutes.
This is a trial of stamina for four musicians who have to give form to a rollercoaster of in- tense feelings that range from despair and pain to forgiveness and hope, resignation and death.
Of all of the versions that exist of this piece, that for string quartet has become the most well-known and popular, possibly because the intimacy of this form best coincides with something like four people united in prayer.[/vc_column_text]