Haydn • José María Sánchez-Verdú
Haydn: Seven Last Words on the Cross; José María Sánchez-Verdú: Sheba
Capella Augustina/Andreas Spering
Avi-music AVI8553518 75:29 mins
For practical reasons, Haydn’s Seven Last Words is most familiar in the rather utilitarian string quartet arrangement he made shortly after completing his orchestral score. There’s no doubt, though, that the larger forces are much more effective, particularly in the final earthquake, which features the sounds of trumpets and drums for the only time. Haydn’s work was commissioned for performance during Lent in a small subterranean church in the town of Cádiz, when each movement was followed by a sermon. Appropriately enough, Andreas Spering, who conducts this new recording, commissioned a Spanish composer, José María Sánchez-Verdú, to supply short interludes to separate Haydn’s slow movements. His contributions, called Sheba (Hebrew for seven), are grief-stricken commentaries sounding rather like the wailing of the wind in the desert. They generally take their point of departure from a gesture in the relevant Haydn piece, though in the case of the penultimate movement Sánchez-Verdú allows himself to quote the five-note motif with which Haydn implicitly underlays the syllables of ‘Consummatum est’.
This is a thought-provoking recreation of the Seven Last Words, and it’s very well played by the members of Capella Augustina, who are also adept at performing contemporary music on their period instruments.