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Pierre's Tuesday Blog

The Way of the Cross

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As our Holy Week installment of the Tuesday Blog, I chose to program a "bonus" selection from the Podcast Vault which will be posted on our Podcast channel exceprionally for one week only.

This particularpodcast presents two works that pertain to the Biblical events surrounding the Crucifixion. The works span nearly 150 years, from the latter part of the 19th century to the 1930’s.

One work is presented in its entirety: The Stations of the Cross by French organist and composer Marcel Dupré. The other consists of the last three sections of The Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross by Joseph Haydn. Let’s begin by discussing the Haydn.

The Hoboken catalog of Haydn’s works assigns Volume XX to The Seven Last Words. Under that volume, there are 4 different versions of the work (which consists of seven “sonatas” preceded and followed by an introduction and an epilogue) – the original version for orchestra, a chorus and orchestra version, a solo keyboard version and the more popular setting for string quartet (of which there exist at least seven editions). Haydn assigns terse tempo indications for the sonatas (Grave,Lento, Largo…) but the sound of the quartet does not do justice to the austere mood – too much lilt for my taste.

The organ, on the other hand, provides so much latitude in sound that one can fully convey the drama and gravitas of Christ’s march to Calvary. That having been said, one must consider that Dupré’s work is not intended to be a depiction of the events – as, say, the ornate pictures or stained glass of a Christian Sanctuary - but is rather an evocation of feelings brought about by the words of French poet and diplomat Paul Claudel.

Le Chemin de la Croix is Dupré’s most important poème Symphonique, a musical essay in a form inspired directly by Romantic/poetic notion. It grew from an improvisation conceived for performance at the Royal Conservatory in Brussels on February 13, 1931. The original improvisations formed a musical commentary on the series of poems (the Stations of the Cross) written by Claudel in 1911.

The format of the concert was a series of readings of each individual poem (14 in all, one for each station) followed by the Dupré improvisation. As I said earlier, the work is not trying to depict the events of each station, but rather convey the mood and feelings that come from listening to them.

For the montage itself, I made the decision to insert the Haydn right after the 11th station (Jesus is nailed to the Cross), and the performance resumes after Haydn comments on Jesus’ final words (in Latin, “In manus tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum” - Into thine hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit).

ITYWLTMT Podcast Montage # 98 – The Cross
(Originally issued on Friday, March 29, 2013)


Marcel DUPRÉ (1886-1971)
Le Chemin de la Croix (The Stations of the Cross), op. 29
Ben van Oosten, organ
Instrument: Cavaille-Coll, Saint Ouen, Rouen

Franz Josef HAYDN (1732-1809)
Die sieben letzten Worte unseres Erlösers am
Kreuze
(The Seven Last Words of Our Saviour On
the Cross), op. 51 (Selections)
  • ("Sitio") in A majorr, Hob. III:54
  • ("Consummatum est") in G minor, Hob. III:55
  • ("In manus tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum") in E-flat major, Hob. III:56

Emerson String Quartet




April 3 2014, "I Think You Will Love This Music Too" will feature a new podcast "Christus am Ölberge " at its Pod-O-Matic Channel . Read more on our blogs in English and in French.
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Updated Mar-31-2015 at 11:28 by itywltmt

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