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C 9629 JOSEPH HAYDN: THE SEVEN LAST WORDS OF OUR SAVIOUR ON THE CROSS (Salamanca Ms. version, c. 1800) [11,99 Euro]

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Qobuz – C 9629 J. Haydn: The Seven Last Words

Considering Haydn’s complete output, The Seven Last Words of our Saviour on the Cross is one of his most beautiful and enigmatic works. Its origins date back to 1785, when the priest José Sáenz de Santamaría, spiritual director of a small oratory in the heart of Cádiz called the Santa Cueva (the Holy Cave), commissioned Haydn with instrumental music to accompany the meditation on the Last Words of Christ, as part of the Three Hours Office. According to Haydn, it was a challenge, as he had to compose seven adagios of a maximum duration of about ten minutes each, and all this without being monotonous. But a genius like Haydn could only respond to this undertaking with an excellent work: not seven, but eight (counting on the Intrada, an initial overture) were the adagios that put each of Christ’s Last Words into context, and to crown it all, an impressive final Earthquake that released all the accumulated tension during almost an hour.

This is not a descriptive work in the style of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, but a more subtle effort: Haydn establishes a special atmosphere for each of the movements of the work, so that we feel the anguish, pain and agony of Christ, and that the music helps us meditate on His suffering. And Haydn achieves this by using an enormous variety of resources, typical of an accomplished keyboard genius (by the time of the commission, he had already written more than half of his keyboard production).

The original version of The Seven Words was for orchestra, and according to the most recent research it was premiered in the Santa Cueva not in 1787, as it was believed until now, but in 1786. By February 1787 he had almost ready his own arrangement for string quartet, and an unknown musician had finished an arrangement for fortepiano, which Haydn considered “very good, and prepared with the utmost care”. The version presented here is the first worldwide recording of a copy prepared for the cathedral of Salamanca (Spain) towards the end of the 18th century, edited and supervised by Bernardo García-Bernalt. It very likely is a version prepared from a second or third copy, because it presents some textual differences (some passages were altereded, there are no dynamic indications, some chords are slightly modified, some ornaments are also changed) with respect to the one published by Artaria in the summer of 1787, but it preserves all its essence and also subtly incorporates some stylistic features typical of the time elapsed between the date of the commission, 1785, and 1800, probably the date of the Salamanca version.

In his performance Yago Mahúgo totally adheres to the Salamanca version text. His position tries to be that of a performer of around 1800 who, without previously knowing the work (nor any of the different arrangements of it) plays it according to the esthetics of the time. Fifteen years have passed since its composition, and the performer now employs some new expressive resources, including a more evident use of rubato. From this point of view, Mahúgo’s reading is a revelation: from the first bars of the Intrada he manages to create an intense and overwhelming expressive atmosphere and he delights into a subtle, detailed reading, full of feeling reading, with a supreme stylistic knowledge and an enormous ability to communicate the sense of each of the movements of the work, until now never found in other previous performances. He uses a superb fortepiano built by Keith Hill after an instrument by Anton Walter dated 1796.

Our recording took place at the end of September 2018 in the wonderful Parish Church of Soto del Real, a small village in the mountains, 45 kms far from Madrid. This temple, with its clear, transparent acoustics and fair reverberation, is the venue for the International Early Music Festival of Soto del Real, whose artistic coordination is the director of Cantus, the music journalist José Carlos Cabello, who has written the extensive and very complete liner notes of the 36-paged, full-color booklet, profusely illustrated with photographs taken during the recording. In short, an unusual album, of extraordinary technical height, which will make many music lovers discover an absolutely memorable work in a masterful performance.

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Qobuz – C 9629 J. Haydn: The Seven Last Words


  • Yago Mahúgo, fortepiano by Keith Hill, after Anton Walter, 1796

Additional information

  • Total time 60:02

    Booklet 36-paged, full colour booklet with extensive liner notes by José Carlos Cabello

    Recording Parish Church of Soto del Real (Madrid, Spain), September 2018

    Sound, digital edition and production Yago Mahúgo

    Executive producers Yago Mahúgo & José Carlos Cabello

    Design and booklet coordination José Carlos Cabello

    Cover Francisco de Goya: Christ crucified, 1780

    Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain.

    All rights reserved.



R ***** (“R” of Recommended of the Month, Ritmo, Spain, December 2018):

Those who buy this CD will never listen to this masterpiece in the same way after experiencing this recording… This is the best Haydn… The recorded sound is incredibly vivid and immediate…

    ✋ Please adjust first the VOLUME control on the SPEAKER ⇓ before playing ▶

    Il Terremoto
The present CD is available in most digital platforms both in lossy (mp3) and lossless formats, including the complete ebooklet when available (emusic, iTunes, Qobuz). If you want to purchase it in a not supported format by the mentioned platforms, or you experience any problem, please contact us at and we shall send you instructions on how to get it immediately.

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Qobuz – C 9629 J. Haydn: The Seven Last Words