Breckenridge Music Festival presents Haydn’s ‘Seven Last Words’ |

Breckenridge Music Festival presents Haydn’s ‘Seven Last Words’

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If you go

What: Joseph Haydn’s “Seven Last Words,” part of the Breckenridge Music Festival’s Encore Winter Concert Series

When: 7 p.m. Friday, April 3

Where: Father Dyer Church, 310 Wellington Road, Breckenridge

Cost: $20 in advance or $25 at the door

More information: Visit to learn more about this and other concerts from the Breckenridge Music Festival

The Breckenridge Summer Festival Orchestra artists will present Joseph Haydn’s composition “Seven Last Words” to a Summit County audience on Good Friday, April 3. The Encore Winter Concert Series welcomes back violinists concertmaster Nathan Olson and Meghan Jones; Kate Carrington, viola; and cellist Ian Jones in this concert presented by the Breckenridge Music Festival.

Commissioned in 1783 for a Good Friday service in Cadiz, Spain, Haydn’s composition, originally for orchestra, is most frequently performed as a string quartet. The piece includes an introduction, seven sonatas that correspond to the seven phrases Christ uttered on the cross and an epilogue, the only fast movement, written to suggest in a musical spirit the earthquake at Christ’s death.

As originally heard in a religious service, Haydn’s music would have been interspersed with liturgical readings representing the elements of the service illustrated by the music. Current performances revive some of the original spirit in a concert setting by combining appropriate secular readings with Haydn’s original composition. For the Breckenridge Music Festival’s concert on Friday, April 3, the members of the quartet have chosen to include a set of readings used by the Aeolian String Quartet in a recent CD recording of the work. The readings will feature poetry by four centuries of writers, including 16th- and 17th-century poets John Donne and Robert Herrick and Edith Sitwell of the 20th century.

Assisting the Breckenridge Music Festival’s Haydn’s “Seven Last Words” performance as narrators will be Jerry Dziedzic, president of the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance, and Patrick Guilbert, a cantor at St. Mary in Breckenridge.

Ruth Padel, a writer who was commissioned to pen poetry in 2012 for each sonata, describes the emotions she felt from the music as she wrote:

“You can’t hear torture in the first sonata. The second ends in the safe home key of C major. In the third, I kept hearing the first notes as Mater but Christ says ‘woman’ to her, not ‘mother.’ I wondered how that might feel to her. In the fourth, the violins compete in canon, like two voices arguing in a single self, and the first fiddle’s jazz-riff-like cadenza suggests a lone figure twisting, agonized, in air. In five, plucked strings evoke drops of water. For ambiguous No. 6, Haydn wrote a singing melody with unexpected shifts into the minor. Muted strings in the last suggest hush as Christ dies. The epilogue, ‘Il Terremoto,’ the only fast movement, suggests rocks splitting at his death. … You hear breakage everywhere, both triumph and catastrophe.”

Join the musicians of the Breckenridge Music Festival Orchestra to commemorate one master composer’s response to the Easter story in concert on Good Friday at Father Dyer Church in Breckenridge. Visit to purchase tickets or to learn more about the festival.

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