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Letter from the Conductor

Seven Last Words

with The Martindale Quartet

For my last concert on May 16, at Christ Church, Didsbury, we have a fine concert for you. It repeats a programme that we have given more than once before, (exceptional in that respect), last time some ten years ago. It is a conflation of two landmark works both dealing with the Passion of Christ: Gesualdo’s Responsories for Good Friday and Haydn’s Seven Last Words of Our Saviour on the Cross. One work is for voices from early 17th century Italy, and the other for string quartet from late 18th century Austria, a strange pairing, you might think, but in practice wonderfully illuminating. Franz Joseph Haydn, son of a wheelwright and Carlo Gesualdo, Prince of Venosa, may have come from opposite ends of the social spectrum, but genius unites them in the ultimate expression of the tragedy and triumph of the Passion.

Of Haydn’s work he himself writes: “every movement is expressed in such a way that even the most uninitiated listener will be moved to the depth of his soul”. Of Gesualdo’s, Glenn Watkins writes “the note of pathos and tragedy which rings from virtually every line of these scriptures had never before been caught with such a vision”.

Programmes are planned well in advance nowadays. This one was planned before my decision to retire at 90. It certainly wasn’t intended to express my own “last words”! However, of all the programme ideas I’ve had it could well be the one I’d most like to be remembered by. Do come and share it with me.

And, next season, starting on November 2009, come and join me in the audience for Keith Orrell's first Byrds concert. I can’t wait to see his ambitious and exciting plans unfold. How lucky they are to have caught a musician of his calibre. Happy Listening!