Vermeer Quartet in Concert

Vermeer Quartet in Concert, Wednesday, April 13

Wednesday, April 13 - Lecture at 7:00 pm and Performance at 8:00 pm

Vermeer Quartet in Concert performing The Seven Last Words of Christ by Joseph Haydn

*All persons, including members of the broader community, are welcome to attend this event if they are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 if over age 12. Registration is required for contact tracing purposes. Starting March 14, 2022, face coverings will be optional in most University spaces, with some exceptions. Details may be found here.

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Franz Joseph Haydn’s THE SEVEN LAST WORDS OF CHRIST - Vermeer String Quartet - Shmuel Ashkenasi, violin; Mathias Tacke, violin; Richard Young, viola; Kurt Baldwin, cello - Meditations by - Eric Barreto; Alison Boden; Sister Simone Campbell; Matthew Desmond; Emma Jordan-Simpson; Mihee Kim-Kort; Simeon Spencer; Theresa Thames; Andrea White

Princeton University Chapel, April 13, 2022, 7 p.m. lecture, 8 p.m. performance

THE SEVEN LAST WORDS OF CHRIST, Op. 51 (Hob. III: 50-56) by Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)

Introduction - Maestoso ed Adagio

The Seven Last Words - “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  (Luke 23:34) – Largo; “Today thou shalt be with me in paradise.”  (Luke 23: 43) - Grave e cantabile; “Woman, behold thy son.  Behold thy mother.”  (John 19:26-27) – Grave; “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”  (Matthew 27:45-46) -  Largo; “I thirst.”  (John 19:28-29) – Adagio; “It is finished!”  (John 19:30) – Lento; “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.”  (Luke 23:46) – Largo; The Earthquake  (Matthew 27:51-54) -Presto e con tutta la forza

PROGRAM NOTES - In 1785 the cathedral at Cadiz in southern Spain commissioned Haydn to write a passion intended for annual presentation during Holy Week.  It would consist of seven slow sonatas, each based on one of Jesus’ seven last utterances.  Two additional movements frame these sonatas: a solemn Introduction and a fiery Finale depicting the earthquake which followed Jesus’ death.  Composed in 1786, The Seven Last Words of Christ was first presented on Good Friday in 1787.  The setting was the austere underground grotto of Santa Cueva which was completely dark but for the glow from the wick of a single lamp, hung from above.  Following the Introduction, the bishop recited the first of the Seven Last Words, which served as the basis for a short spoken meditation.  The first of Haydn’s sonatas was then played.  Each of the remaining sections followed the same pattern: the bishop would introduce one of Jesus’ final utterances, and the music that it inspired would immediately follow.  This masterpiece was conceived in a spirit of profound religious conviction.  Despite its length and emotional urgency, it is a model of simplicity and sophistication.  Above all, Haydn wanted it to be accessible to everybody, regardless of one’s musical or religious background.  He wrote: “Each sonata, or movement, is expressed by purely instrumental music in such a way that even the most uninitiated listener will be moved to the very depths of his soul.”  The work was originally scored for full orchestra.  While these parts were being printed in 1787, Haydn crafted an alternate version for string quartet.  Later that year, under Haydn’s supervision, the publisher made a piano reduction of the orchestra score.  Various arrangements for choir were also done, including one by the composer.  In the hands of a mere four string players, this music cannot achieve the volume and tonal diversity of a symphony orchestra or choir.  Nevertheless in the four-voice setting, with only one instrument on a part, it is imbued with a heightened intimacy which larger ensembles cannot possibly match.  This music’s emotional and psychological impact is best conveyed through the most subtle variations of timbre, voicing, rhythm, and tempo – techniques ideally suited to a string quartet.  Therefore this simplest of all versions may indeed be the most affecting.  No less compelling than its more grandiose cousins, it is inherently more personal.  Haydn considered this to be one of his greatest works.  But to hear the music by itself, however powerfully it stands alone, is to experience it in only part of its glory.  Reunited with the words that served as its inspiration, it takes on a spiritual dimension rarely found in even the most profound compositions.  Though its message is decidedly Christian, it transcends the focus of any particular faith.  This is music which cuts across religious and social lines and speaks sincerely, eloquently, and passionately to everyone, via the common denominator that exists in the soul of all humanity.

VERMEER STRING QUARTET - Shmuel Ashkenasi, violin; Mathias Tacke, violin; Richard Young, viola; Kurt Baldwin, cello - With performances in practically every major city in North America, Europe, Japan, and Australia, the Vermeer Quartet earned a reputation as one of the great string quartets in history.  Formed in 1969 at Marlboro, its members are originally from Israel, Germany, New York, and Nebraska, thus providing a unique blend of musical and cultural backgrounds.  Switzerland’s Suisse wrote, “Out of this alchemy is born a thing of beauty which one can define, without hesitation, as perfection.”  During a career that spanned nearly four decades, the Vermeer appeared at virtually all the most prestigious festivals, including Tanglewood, Aldeburgh, Norfolk, Aspen, Mostly Mozart, Bath, South Bank, Lucerne, Stresa, Flanders, Kneisel Hall, Caramoor, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Berlin, Orlando, Schleswig-Holstein, Edinburgh, Great Woods, Spoleto, Ravinia, and the Casals Festival.  They spent part of each summer on the coast of Maine as the featured ensemble for Bay Chamber Concerts, and were associated with Northern Illinois University as “resident artist faculty” since 1970.  They were also Fellows of the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, England, where they presented annual master classes beginning in 1978.  The Vermeer performed well over two hundred works including all the “standard” string quartets, many lesser-known compositions, a number of contemporary scores, and various other works with guests.  Their discography includes the complete quartets of Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, and Bartók, plus additional works by Schubert, Mendelssohn, Dvořák, Verdi, Shostakovich, Haydn, Tchaikovsky, Schnittke, and Brahms.  About their Beethoven recordings, Stereo Review said, “What these peerless players give us is a heady blend of old-fashioned warmth and communicativeness, with exemplary demonstrations of modern standards of both taste and technique.  More persuasive performances of any of these quartets are simply not to be found.”  After retiring from the concert stage in 2007, the Vermeer returns to perform Haydn’s Good Friday masterpiece, The Seven Last Words of Christ, a work they have played countless times all over the world.  The Chicago Tribune wrote, "When presented as poignantly as the Vermeer presents it, the inner core of the piece is left so exposed that both religious and dramatic power radiate from within.  The tender loving care that the Vermeer lavishes over every phrase of this unique score is something quite special to behold."  Poland's Ruch Muzyczny sums up, "The Vermeer Quartet's interpretation seems so nearly ideal that one can appreciate music as universal harmony."  Their Grammy-nominated CD has been broadcast to over 60 million listeners worldwide, thus demonstrating an enduring appeal that reaches far beyond the traditional classical music audience.  Kurt Baldwin, cellist of the Arianna Quartet, is playing in place of Marc Johnson, who passed away in 2014.

THE SPEAKERS  - The Rev. Alison Boden, Ph.D. is Dean of Religious Life and of the Chapel at Princeton University. She has served for over three decades in university chaplaincy – at Princeton since 2007 and previously at the University of Chicago, Bucknell University, and Union College. Alison has authored numerous articles, chapters and posts on religion in addition to a book, Women’s Rights and Religious Practice (Palgrave 2007). She has participated in a variety of capacities with non-governmental organizations, particularly on the topic of women of faith as intentional agents of peace-building and security. She is a contributor to The Carter Center’s Scripturally Annotated Universal Declaration of Human Rights and an editor of She is a minister in the United Church of Christ.

Introduction - The Rev. Dr. Emma Jordan-Simpson became the president of Auburn Seminary on October 1, 2021. Auburn is a leadership development and research institute that “equips leaders with the organizational skills and spiritual resilience required to create lasting, positive impact in local communities, on the national stage, and around the world.” She is a graduate of Fisk University, Union Theological Seminary, and Drew Seminary. Jordan-Simpson serves on the pastoral team at the Concord Baptist Church of Christ, as president of the Board of American Baptist Churches of Metropolitan New York, and on the Board of FPWA.

“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” 

Sister Simone Campbell (a Roman Catholic Sister of Social Service) is a religious leader, attorney, and author with extensive experience in public policy and advocacy for systemic change. For almost 17 years she was the executive director of NETWORK, Lobby for Catholic Social Justice and leader of Nuns on the Bus. In 2010, she wrote the “nuns’ letter” that was seminal in the passage of the Affordable Care Act. She has twice spoken at the Democratic National Conventions, appeared on numerous television and radio programs and received many awards including a “Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Award” and the “Defender of Democracy Award” from the Parliamentarians for Global Action. Prior to her work in Washington, this native Californian did interfaith state-based advocacy in Sacramento and for 18 years was the founder and lead attorney at the Community Law Center in Oakland to serve the family law and probate needs of working poor families in Alameda County.  Her two books, A Nun on the Bus (2014) and Hunger for Hope (2020), are award winning reflections on the substance of her life and the call to faithful justice seeking.

“Surely, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

The Rev. Dr. Andrea C. White is Associate Professor of Theology and Culture at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York where she teaches womanist theology, black critical theory, and phenomenology.  She is Chair of Columbia University Senate’s Commission on Diversity and has served as Executive Director of the Society for the Study of Black Religion and Chair of the American Academy of Religion’s unit in Black Theology.  Prior to her appointment at Union, she served on the faculty at Emory University Candler School of Theology and in the Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.  She holds a Ph.D. from The University of Chicago, Master of Divinity from Yale Divinity School, and Bachelor of Arts from Oberlin College.  She has been an ordained American Baptist minister for twenty-four years. 

“Woman, behold your son; behold your mother”

The Rev. Simeon Spencer is Senior Pastor of the Union Baptist Church in Trenton.  After serving as a counselor in an alternative rehabilitation program for juvenile offenders, Rev. Spencer spent ten years on Capitol Hill as a Legislative Aide to Senator Richard C. Shelby.  His leadership at Union Baptist Church has included the founding of Trenton HOPE, a community development corporation that is partnering with local, state and national government, as well as private entities, in the revitalization of the city of Trenton.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 

Prof. Matthew Desmond is the Maurice P. During Professor of Sociology at Princeton University. After receiving his Ph.D. in 2010 from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, he joined the Harvard Society of Fellows as a Junior Fellow. He is the author of four books, including Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (2016), which won the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Critics Circle Award, and Carnegie Medal, and PEN / John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction. The principal investigator of The Eviction Lab, Desmond's research focuses on poverty in America, city life, housing insecurity, public policy, racial inequality, and ethnography. He is the recipient of a MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship, the American Bar Association's Silver Gavel Award, and the William Julius Wilson Early Career Award. A Contributing Writer for the New York Times Magazine, Desmond was listed in 2016 among the Politico 50, as one of "fifty people across the country who are most influencing the national political debate." 

“I thirst.”

The Rev. Mihee Kim-Kort is a Presbyterian minister and co-pastor with her spouse of First Presbyterian Church in Annapolis, MD and a doctoral candidate in Religious Studies at Indiana University

“It is finished!"

Prof. Eric D. Barreto is Weyerhaeuser Associate Professor of New Testament at Princeton Theological Seminary and an ordained Baptist minister. He is the author of Ethnic Negotiations: The Function of Race and Ethnicity in Acts 16 (Mohr Siebeck, 2010), the co-author of Exploring the Bible (Fortress Press, 2016), and editor of Reading Theologically (Fortress Press, 2014). 

“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit;” 

The Rev. Dr. Theresa S. Thames (she/her/hers) is the Associate Dean of Religious Life and the Chapel at Princeton University. An ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church, Theresa is a graduate of Howard University, Duke University Divinity School, and Wesley Theological Seminary.  She is passionate about the intersections of theology, gender, organizational development, and social justice. She is a challenging preacher, thoughtful theologian, certified yoga teacher, wife, dog mom, and devoted friend. Dean Thames is a lover of life and a music connoisseur who prioritizes self-care and believes that freedom is not optional, rest is her strength, and radical joy is her resistance. She is involved with the Princeton community through student engagement, pastoral care, overseeing religious programs, and regularly preaching at the University Chapel.

The Earthquake


Now as we go into the night, we reflect on Jesus’ seven cries, related by the Gospel-writers and reflected by Franz Joseph Haydn’s music.  Inevitably, whether in faith or nonfaith, we see our lives in the light of the remembered experience of those who first heard them.  Some must have walked away in freedom, for Jesus has cried out loud enough that they could hear they were forgiven.  Release, say the forgiven, still occurs.  Perhaps relatives of one dead thief walked home taking comfort from recall of a cry of promise to him.  Promises remain compelling.  Jesus’ cry had been loud enough for a woman to know she had gained a new son, and for a man to know that he was related to a new mother.  Many who hear the story gain new responsibilities.  Jesus’ cry of godforsakenness was loud enough, is loud enough, for those who follow him to be assured that no one again need feel, or be, abandoned by God.  Maybe the soldier who now had to rinse out a cup and squeeze out a sponge kept thinking about other things than the cry, “I thirst.”  But he had done his duty that day and he had duties now at night.  Life goes on.  Everyone has duties to attend to.  Anyone who later pondered, could remember the cry announcing that God’s work had been completed.  This promised a liberating charter for new ways of life.  The possibility of newness still beckons.  And those of us who have spirits to commend in hope, have new reasons for doing so.  The spirit’s search remains urgent.   Ages have passed, and Jesus’ seven last words resound not as mere words but as “cries”; announcements, as it were; declarations of his perfect love that still reshapes an imperfect world and many lives within it.  Reinforced by Haydn’s music, or reinforcing the music, the remembered cries and the silence that surrounds this love still haunt many and lure more. - Dr. Martin E. Marty


April 13, 2022


7:00 p.m.


University Chapel