- THE DOROTHY HEWETT AWARD
Through the Lens of Esoteric Thought: Joseph Haydn's The Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross
Joseph Haydn is unquestionably the most influential and innovative composer of his generation. Haydn’s monumental masterpiece The seven last words of Christ on the cross, written in 1786, exposes Haydn’s personal worldview (informed as this was both by his faith and by Christian reality).
Though Haydn remarked that his Seven last words was ‘the very finest of all his works’, he did not provide any clues regarding the methods that he employed to create the work. Geoffrey Lancaster reorients the compass of study in relation to the Seven last words by examining the masterpiece’s structure and meaning through the eighteenth-century esoteric mechanisms of key characteristics, proportion and number symbolism. Haydn’s Seven last words is placed within the context of late eighteenth-century philosophic and metaphysical thought, and contemporaneous esoteric mechanisms are woven together to reveal the ‘hidden’ heart of the work.
Lancaster’s background as an acclaimed fortepianist and as a university academic has inspired him to explore the fruitful coalescence of music making and scholarship. It is very rare that such an accomplished performer should also be a considerable writer and thinker about the art. The result is a unique book, one that offers a fresh perspective on one of the great treasures from Western culture’s musical inheritance: Haydn’s Seven last words.
This book is associated with a recording of the 1787 keyboard version of the Seven last words (a version approved by Haydn) – performed by the author using the type of piano for which Haydn expressed a preference.