“For me, Golgotha was a unique event in my life as a composer. The decision to write the composition did not come from a deliberate choice [of material] like Rilke’s Cornet or Shakespeare’s Tempest, for instance. Everything, it seemed to me, forbade it, especially a true cult-worship which I had devoted since childhood (up to the present day) to J. S. Bach’s Matthew Passion – but perhaps it was even more so the fact that I felt myself unworthy – utterly, completely unworthy – of treating such a topic. Nothing and no one had ever challenged me to do it. But something was called for, something that felt like a call to me, and at first I strove against that call with everything I had. But the call was stronger than my resistance, and so I sat down to work …” (Letter from Frank Martin to Willy Fotsch, February 1970)
Rembrandt’s etching Three Crosses was one of the factors which gave impetus to the composition. The great success of Golgotha’s première has not waned in the meanwhile; it has taken its place in the standard repertoire of the 20th century for evident reasons.