A reflection on Sonata VI of Haydn’s string quartet Op. 51 “The Seven Last Words of Christ." Commissioned by The Juilliard School For Juilliard415 – The Seven Last Words Project

Sonata VI: It Is Finished takes its seed of inspiration from the first five note motivic phrase from Sonata VI of Haydn’s string quartet Op. 51 “The Seven Last Words of Christ”. I decided to extend the phrase to seven notes to complete the notion of the seven last words.

Though the original movement is quiet, intense and slow for the larger part of the work, I decided to take note of the fact that the sixth statement: “It is finished” is traditionally called  “The word of triumph”. Using a lightness of brushstroke, facility with flash, and the typical velocity of the period helped me depict that triumph, which in turn served as the inspirational coloristic underpinning of the piece.

The work begins with strums that are then cajoled into movement by fast moving septuplets. This culminates in the first declamation of the seven note phrase. Now rich and dense in its harmonic setting it provides the next musical departure: broken motives, triumphant arpeggiated moments, and a final last utterance of the original seven notes. The dichotomy in color and mood serves to represent the wholeness of the love with which Jesus lived, and the perpetual brokenness of humanity.

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