“About fifteen years ago I was requested by a canon from Cádiz to compose instrumental music on the seven last words of Jesus 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 heightened 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 lit the holy gloom. At noon all doors were shut and the music began. After an appropriate prelude, the bishop ascended the pulpit, recited one of the sever words, and delivered a discourse upon it. This ended, he left the pulpit and knelt before the altar. This pause was filled with music. Similarly the bishop entered and left the pulpit for each of the words, and each time the orchestra followed the end of the discourse.
“My music was to fit this format. The task of composing seven Adagios, each to last about ten minutes, was far from easy; and I soon found that I could not confine myself to the time allotted.
“My music was originally without text, and was printed in that form.”
— Joseph Haydn
Vienna, March 1801
[A version for string quartet made by Haydn himself was published in Vienna, Paris, Amsterdam and London. In the
instrumental versions, the individual movements were called sonatas.]
Sonata I. Pater, dimitte illis, non enim sciunt, quid faciunt. "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do." [Luke 23:34]
When the crucifixion procession reached Golgotha, Jesus was crucified along with two criminals. The Roman soldiers divided up his clothing by casting lots. "He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Son of God, the Chosen One".
Sonata II. Amen dico tibi: hodie mecum eris in paradiso. "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." [Luke 23:43]
One of the criminals who was crucified with Jesus said: "Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!" Another rebuked the first one: "Don't you fear God since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our
deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong. Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom."
Sonata III. Mulier, ecce filius tuus, et tu, ecce mater tua! "Woman, this is your son!". "This is your mother!" [John 19:26-27]
When Jesus saw his Mother and one of his disciples standing near, he said to his Mother: "Woman, behold, your son!". Then
he said to the disciple: "Behold, your Mother!" And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.
Sonata IV. Eli, Eli, lama asabthani? "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" [Mark 15:34]
And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why hast
Thou forsaken me?" When some of the people standing around the cross heard this they said: "He's calling Elijah." Some
believe that at that moment Jesus took on himself the sins of the world and was for the first time truly separated from the Father.
Sonata V. Sitio. “I thirst.” [John 19:28]
Jesus was here fulfilling the Messianic prophecy from Psalm 69:21: “They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my
thirst.” By saying He was thirsty, He prompted the Roman guards to give Him vinegar, which was customary at a crucifixion, there by fulfilling the prophecy.
Sonata VI. Consumatum est. "It is finished." [John 19:30]
The prophecies had been fulfilled. Everything was in order. The plan was complete.
Sonata VII. Pater! in manus tuas commendo spiritum meum. “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” [Luke 23:46]
Here, Jesus is willingly giving up His soul into the Father’s hands, indicating that He was about to die – and that God had accepted His sacrifice. He “offered up Himself unblemished to God” (Hebrew9:14).
Il Terremoto. [The Earthquake]. Presto e con tutta la forza.