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THIS CONCERT HAS BEEN CANCELED - Together We Are Strong

This year’s edition of the Baltic Sea Festival has been cancelled. Read more at balticseafestival.com

Concord will make small things flourish. Joseph Haydn’s meditations on the seven words that Jesus spoke on the cross are intertwined with reflections on how we can work together for a better tomorrow – instead of ruining and destroying our own lives, the lives of others, and our planet. Discord will destroy great things.

Playing Joseph Haydn’s The Seven Last Words of Our Saviour on the Cross is an intense experience for the musicians in a string quartet. The seven slow movements between the introduction and the concluding earthquake – Terremoto – which according to the evangelist Matthew shook the ground when Jesus died, provide an opportunity to meditate on both Haydn’s personal interpretations and on a tortured, dying man’s last words and final hours of life. Also, perhaps, on the fact that for two thousand years, man has continued to inflict the same harm upon his fellow man.

South of Seville, halfway to Gibraltar, lies the Andalusian city of Cádiz. It is Europe’s oldest continuously inhabited city. The light from the beaches dances on the blue Atlantic. The white sandstone walls of the houses shade narrow alleyways and the leaves of orange trees rustle in the breeze on the square. When the Jesuit priest Padre José inherited a fortune in the early 1780s, he decided to build a magnificent oval chapel on top of the simple underground chapel where he served. He then proceeded to commission music from Europe’s most famous composers: Joseph Haydn. The small city of Cádiz would have an Easter service the like of which they had never seen before.

Joseph Haydn had recently renegotiated his contract with Prince Esterházy. He now had an opportunity to publish his music with publishers outside the Hungarian court, even writing music on commission from people other than the prince. The request from Padre José was surprisingly detailed and posed a major challenge, even for a composer with eighty symphonies to his name.

Writing seven slow movements in a row was no easy task. The music would deepen the worshippers’ experience of the words spoken by Christ on the cross, as the priest moved from the pulpit to the altar between readings and meditations. Haydn finally found inspiration in the actual spoken rhythm of the biblical words. He turned them into musical themes in a nine-movement work for chamber orchestra, later rewritten for string quartet by Haydn himself.

Haydn had never actually been to Cádiz but had the Easter tradition of the ancient city described to him. “The walls, windows and pillars of the church were hung with black cloth and only one large lamp hanging from the centre of the roof broke the solemn darkness”, Haydn wrote in the preface to one edition. Haydn let his music create a new dimension to this intense atmosphere of mystery.

In this concert that is structured around words, we come together for a moment of mutual reflection. The Sayings of Jesus on the cross become seven meditations on our future challenges. What are they and how can these words help us progress? We engage with Haydn’s music through philosophy, through faith and through humanism.

Text: Janna Vettergren


Participants

 

The Stenhammar Quartet has established itself as one of Scandinavia’s best string quartets. Its members are violinists Peter Olofsson and Per Öman, violist Tony Bauer and cellist Mats Olofsson. The works of Wilhelm Stenhammar and other great Swedish pieces are the backbone of the ensemble’s repertoire, combined with a focus on the Viennese classics as well as contemporary music.

The quartet regularly commissions new pieces by composers such as Sven-David Sandström, Victoria Borisova-Ollas and Per Mårtensson and has had works dedicated to them by composers from the United States, Great Britain, Finland and Norway. They have made more than 40 recordings for the Swedish Radio P2 and in 2011 they were part of a concert series recorded by the Swedish Radio featuring the complete chamber music of Wilhelm Stenhammar.

The Stenhammar Quartet’s album recordings have been lauded in Swedish and international music press. British music site MusicWeb International praises the potency of their “strongly argued performances”. They have played in festivals and on tours to countries like Germany, England, India and Algeria and in Sweden they have performed on TV in the national finals of the ESC and the Polar Prize Award.

Dramaturge and translator Magnus Lindman is active at Folkoperan, Folkteatern Gothenburg and Swedish Radio Drama. He works with stage and music theatre at several in Sweden’s venues and collaborates with stage artists such as Frida Röhl, Mellika Melouani Melani and Örjan Andersson. He specialises in translating plays from German with particular focus on the works of Elfriede Jelinek, for which he has been highly praised. He has also translated works by Ödön von Horváth, Peter Handke, Bertolt Brecht and Anja Hilling among others.

In 2014, he and Pia Gradvall wrote the comedy Ditt parti for Swedish Radio Drama, which was awarded second prize in the Radio Fiction Series category at Prix Europa. For Kulturhuset Stadsteatern he has adapted Per Anders Fogelström’s City of My Dreams and written the script for Bang, a show about famed journalist Barbro Alving. For Folkteatern Gothenburg he has translated Hamlet, The Good Person of Sczechwan and The Winter’s Tale and in 2019 he wrote the script and, together with Frida Röhl planned, the production of Madame Bovary. The Royal Dramatic Theatre performs his translation of The Dresser since 2018. In 2016, Lindman received the Natur & Kultur Foundation’s translator’s prize from the Royal Swedish Academy.

Approximate concert length: 1 h 30 min (no intermission)