Fitzwilliam String Quartet - Haydn The Seven Last Words - Early Music News

...At least in their original orchestral version, which was composed for Cadiz cathedral; [the Seven Last Words were performed] with a series of reflections spoken from the pulpit. The mood is solemn without being sombre. Four of the pieces are in the major, and two of the others move into the major in true symphonic style. These are indeed sonata movements : they have exposition repeats, all of which are given here.

With the exception of a cadenza for the first violin in 'Eli, Eli' - the only one of the actual to end in the minor - the writing is for a team of equals. 'I thirst' juxtaposes pizzicato inner parts with a sighing representation of the word 'Sitio', and there is some typically Haydnesque scoring in the stark octaves of the upper and lower strings. One of the most affecting movements is 'Father! I commend my spirit', where the instruments are muted. The work ends with an earthquake: octaves again, recalling the Furies in Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice.

The Fitzwilliam quartet, on period instruments, give a superb performance of these marvellous pieces, conveying all the passion and poignancy in the music. There is a hint of portamento - never overdone - in the leader's playing that I found very appealing. Linn Records have done Haydn proud, in a warm and clear recording.


Early Music News
02 April 2001