This piece, dominated by a joyous and intimate religiosity, a musical construction able to express in its lucidus ordo the sequence of human events and the truth of Faith with persuasive force equal to that of vocal music, was composed in order to satisfy the request of a canon who asked for a music to accompany the annual celebration of the Passion on Good Friday. (...)
The first performance took place presumably on Good Friday 1786. In addition to the seven sonatas, as he defined them, Haydn wrote an introduction and, in conclusion, a description of the earthquake that shook Calvary, according to the Gospel of St Matthew. When the work was published by Artaria, Haydn did much to ensure that the text of the seven words be written under the part of the first violin, so that the performers could identify themselves with the content of what they were playing. After eight slow movements comes a bright conclusive Presto: in the Passion of Christ are glimpsed already the signs of victory over death, his Resurrection.
(from Haydn and the Ineffable Mistery by Enrico Raggi - excerpt from the booklet enclosed in the CD)