- The SEVEN LAST WORDS of CHRIST -
Good Friday, the day we commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, is the most important day in the history of man. It is the saddest day, the most terrible day ... and, it is the happiest day. It is the only day ---- so horrible because it is the day God sacrificed Himself to man, allowing Himself to be butchered by screaming crowds of hateful murderers --- so wonderful because it is the day God re-opened the gates of Heaven, to these hateful, bestial creatures who had turned so viciously against Him.
People within the Church often refer to Easter Sunday, the Day of Resurrection, as the most important and fantastic day of all --- but no, when one really thinks about it, it is indeed Good Friday that is so important and wonderful, and by far ”outshines” the miracle of Christ's resurrection ---- after all, that God, Who can create an entire universe at His whim, should rise from the dead is totally insignificant -- but that God should allow His holy and pure self to be crucified in order to help His torturers into Heaven, .... well, THAT is really something!
And in this music, we re-live this day. to a depth unprecedented in our culture. No other music, no other art, draws us in to the body and soul of Jesus Christ., as does this remarkable work of Joseph Haydn. No other work in the classical realm can match this music for its transcendence of so many dimensions .... it is perfect as music, it is perfect as theology, it is perfect as philosophical understanding of Man and God united in this supreme act of love and sacrifice.
On this day, and through this music, we see Christ, not as His Divine Self walking on water, and stilling the seas by a wave of His hand, or curing the sick from their hellish sicknesses -- no, here we meet Christ The Man, totally crushed by the hellish bestiality of mankind, those to whom He came with His gifts of peace and sanctity. This Man, Who spread only joy and light all around Him, was no longer welcome. And it was not enough simply to kill Him, He was to be ”punished” for His goodness by suffering the most bestial and painful form of execution they had at their disposal.
Haydn felt all of this so deeply, and through his love for Christ, would contemplate the full and deeper significance of each and every moment of His crucifixion. Haydn would create a monument to Christ and this day, and within this monument would be a door, a door which opens for us a world which no other man has been able to visit through music. .......
And in this glorious music, Haydn created what should be regarded as the greatest work of the Classical Period .... a creation so filled with his love of God and Haydn's own personal genius, that he sculptured a musical wonder, where he expressed his beautiful perceptions and great understanding of the drama and meaning of this Terrible Day. -- expressing so much, both religiously and philosophically, more than a normal man could do, and all this within the tight confines of purely Classical form !
Every bar, every phrase is filled with philosophical thought --- how much loving care Haydn poured into this piece is unfathomable! It is no easy task to take pure and Classical formal composition and subdue it under the religious and philosophical meanings of Christ's words from the cross.
What is perhaps most remarkable about this work is the multitude of "transmigrations" where the music moves from one dimension to another, where it depicts some meaning in one phrase, and then 8 bars later, refers to a completely new philosophical thought within the same words ..... there is an endless fountain of dimensions contained in Haydn's music here .... one can almost say that this piece is no longer "music”, it is a transcendental journey into true thought.
Because of Haydn's work, we can see and feel, so much more , and through him come to the wonderful perception that indeed, Good Friday is not only the most important day of our history, it is, on this day of Christ's death, the absolute centre of all time, all time before, and all time to come.
I believe this music is the ultimate of all music ever written.
Lubomyr Melnyk. 2004
- THE SEVEN LAST WORDS of CHRIST -
composed in 1785 by Joseph Hadyn
Performed by The IVANO STRING QUARTET
of Ivano-Frankiwsk, Ukraina
Directed and Recorded by Lubomyr Melnyk.
Violin 1: Ihor SHKURHAN Viola: Olekh GERETA
Violin 2: Natalka MANDRYKA Cello: Taras TURYANSKIJ
1) Introduzione --- The drama begins .
Here, the music opens with a wide panorama of not only the physical scene before us of Golgotha, but also of the "hidden" drama underlying this entire event, ie. The Son of Man and this, His point in Time and the full monumental importance of this scene -- all presented in the dramatic phrases that shift their nuances and speech. This is not just music that depicts a scene ... it is music that swells out of the very depths of what this scene entails within the entire history of Man.
2) Pater, dimitte illis, non enim sciunt quid faciunt --
Father, forgive them for the know not what they do.
Here Haydn presents us with a marvellously tender image of pure Godly love, .. extreme tenderness and care, as befitting a Divine Father to His children; one can only marvel at how Haydn could succeed to give a classical phrase and melody to us with this feeling and thought --- it is just incredible! ---- here we feel the great love and goodness that Jesus bestows upon humanity, even upon those who hate Him and wish upon His innocent being all the pain and anguish they can inflict.
3) Amen, dico tibi: hodie mecum eris in paradiso --
Verily I say to you, today you shall be with me in Paradise”
The music opens with a remarkable and transcendental vista, where we see Golgotha in panorama, then it alters dimensions into seeing from Christ-s own eyes and heart as He looks out on the screaming masses.
Here we can feel IN THE MUSIC, the anguish of Christ as He hangs there surrounded by pain and hatred on all sides, and in the midst of this, the criminal on His left begins to mock Him with petty sarcastic remarks, knowing full well, that this Man beside him is suffering terrible agonies, far worse that he himself --- but that is human nature! And then turning from this anguish and pain, we can feel Christ's compassion and His tender gratitude to the thief on His right, who will soon be admitted into the Halls of sanctity .... how Haydn could create this heavenly message and its dimensional transcendence through music is beyond our understanding ... let someone just try it and see !
4) Mullier, ecce filius tuus et tu, ecce mater tua! --
Mother behold Thy Son, and you, behold thy Mother -- -
Here Haydn creates a wonderful picture of family love, full of warmth and great tenderness. Are there any words to describe what Haydn has done to Classical form in this movement ? ... that he has the quartet actually say ”MAM-MA” through its instruments ! --- and this Child, speaking to His mother, ”Mamma, behold!” .... and, Mamma, do not worry, your loving Son will still, even at this terrible moment, take thought to your well-being .. and you, my faithful apostle, take care of this My Mother! ..... and all this so profoundly and tenderly spoken in music.
5) Eli, Eli, lama asabthani?
My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me ?
Darkness and blackness sweep over Christ --- Haydn has well understood that Christ, at this moment, is suffering as man. The horror and fear that come over Him are indescribable --- an awesome chasm appears around Christ, and He is left totally alone, suffering the human fears and darkness --- the music is not only pictorial and emotional, it is philosophical, for this black chasm is not only fearsome, it is as immense as the universe! ---- the music becomes the horrible abyss of fear and anguish which Christ feels in this moment of doubt .... as Darkness and blackness sweep over Him! ---
Where now is that great Jesus who cured the blind and stilled the storms of Nature ?? Is this that same wonder-worker ??
6) Sitia: ---- I thirst.
What do we hear? It is the dropping of water. sweet, sweet water dripping peacefully in some shaded spot in the desert -- water that we can not have, only dream of ..... how well Haydn understood that Christ, from the moment He was arrested in the garden, was probably denied water ... He was kept up all night by the cruel army men and then tortured for hours, with a crown of thorns pressed into His flesh, made to carry the heavy wooden cross through the dusty streets ---- and who of His torturers would bother to show the kindness to give this Prisoner-Fool a bit of water to drink !
We know that physical anguish increases thirst by a thousand-fold, how physical stress makes every cell just scream for water, and add to this the fact that Christ was denied sleep all the previous night, then the horror of this thirst becomes truly apparent.
And then, Haydn ferociously tears away at the frail cloth of this dream, with wrenching and horrific attacks of pain and the screams for water from every cell in Christ's body.
7) Consummatum est -- It is fulfilled!
The end is near, and Haydn here experiences Christ in Divine, albeit it dramatic, peace --- The Son of Man, the friend of all mankind, has performed His Father's will, to the last drop --- and the Gates of Heaven are now being opened, and through them shall walk Christ The King --- this is incredible music, depicting thousands of years of Man's history, into this one great transcendental Time-speck. The pain and the anguish are gone, and the perfect gaze of the Almighty Father and His Son have become united into the simple fact of our Redemption. Later within this section, the music takes on a sublime peace and quietude --- indeed, Haydn presents us with several marvellous visions of what these truly monumental words mean!
8) Pater! In manus tuas commendo spiritum meum ---
Father, into Thy hands I commend my soul ...
---- this is not music of defeat.... this is music of glorious victory, of the Son of Man who obeyed His Father´s will even unto this horrible death, of One who bears the crown of thorns in Triumph. His place is waiting at the Right Hand of God The Father.
This music is truly remarkable, showing Haydn's profound concepts of this moment, transforming these words into one great and stately procession of Christ into His Father's Kingdom .. no longer Christ the despairing, but Christ the Triumphant!
And too, the music migrates in moments to become the supreme tenderness of the Father as He welcomes from His heart the divine presence/return of His faithful Son .. remarkably tender and warming music, that Haydn himself thought these thoughts and envisaged so many depths in what these words entail!
9) Il terremoto .... The Earthquake
The earth is covered in darkness, Nature explodes into a ferocious storm as God strikes the earth with His terrible message "Look ! Look at what you all have done ..... !!!" The earth quakes, the curtain in the Holy Temple of Jerusalem is torn from top to bottom, and people run to take shelter ... and we are all left in this music to cope as best we can, with the image of God's wrath .... shaking in our souls as we look upon this awful deed, the murder of The Son of God.
All the sins, all the hatred, all the evil that Man has brought into this world, begin to shake the very Earth, at this moment when God's Son now hangs dead on the cross . The earth trembles so that we too shall feel fear and be humbled before the anger of Our Father.
10) Lubomyr MELNYK: ANTIPHON Nr. 6 for 2 Violas and Piano (2003)
recorded in live concert, Toronto, September 19, 2004
ANTIPHONS are a type of prayer within the Ukrainian Catholic Church.
Douglas Perry: Violas, Lubomyr Melnyk: Piano
BANDURA RECORDS, Copyright 2004 by Lubomyr Melnyk All Rights Reserved.
Back to list of recordings