Seven Last Words,
seven quartets

Walt Mundkowsky

[September 2013.]

Some have downgraded the string quartet version as a mere reduction of the string parts in Haydn’s orchestral score of the previous year, but many of us want to hear it precisely this way. (Morton Feldman would ask himself, “Not if it’s all there, but how much has to be there for it to be there?”)

second earliest

dutton_cdbp9739

Joseph HAYDN: The Seven Last Words of Our Saviour On the Cross, Op. 51 (string quartet, 1787); String Quartet, Op. 103: Minuet and Trio (1803). (Rec. 1943, 1946.) [62:47, Op. 51] Griller Quartet: Sidney Griller, Jack O’Brien (vlns), Philip Burton (vla), Colin Hampton (vlc). Dutton CDBP 9739 (http://www.duttonvocalion.co.uk/).

Surprising dynamics. Tight ensemble never impedes poetry.

no repeats  

berlinclassics_4137021

 Joseph HAYDN: The Seven Last Words of Our Saviour On the Cross, Op. 51 (string quartet, 1787). (Rec. 1980.) [50:11] Gewandhaus Quartett: Karl Suske, Giorgio Kröhner (vlns), Dietmar Hallmann (vla), Jürnjakob Timm (vlc). Berlin Classics 0013702 BC (http://www.edel.com/en/audio/labels/home/berlin-classics/). Distributed in the US by Naxos (http://www.naxos.com/).

Doesn’t feel fast – concentrated, beautifully flowing, pellucid.

two longest

emi_cdc7496822

Joseph HAYDN: The Seven Last Words of Our Saviour On the Cross, Op. 51 (string quartet, 1787). (Rec. 1988.) [77:02] Cherubini Quartett: Christoph Poppen, Harald Schoneweg (vlns), Hariolf Schlichtig (vla), Klaus Kämper (vlc). EMI CDC 7 49682 2 (O/P). (ArkivMusic markets a dub.)

Crucifixion events require time. Close, stringent reproduction.

denon_coco70520

Joseph HAYDN: The Seven Last Words of Our Saviour On the Cross, Op. 51 (string quartet, 1787). (Rec. 1994.) [78:54] Kuijken Quartet: Sigiswald Kuijken, François Fernández (vlns), Marleen Thiers (vla), Wieland Kuijken (vlc). Denon COCO-70520 (http://www.denonclassics.com/).

Microscopy, rigorous control, signposts. Luckily, great sound.

[COCO-73134 is the Blu-spec edition. I’m interested.]

period practice

naive_e8803 naive_e8923

Joseph HAYDN: The Seven Last Words of Our Saviour On the Cross, Op. 51 (string quartet, 1787). (Rec. 1992.) [72:30] Quatuor Mosaïques: Erich Höbarth, Andrea Bischof (vlns), Anita Mitterer (vla), Christophe Coin (vlc). Naïve E 8803 (http://www.naive.fr/). Distributed in the US by Naxos (http://www.naxos.com/).

Good Friday, Fontevraud. Fine-grained; unexpected strength.

augmented

dg_4748362

Joseph HAYDN: The Seven Last Words of Our Saviour On the Cross, Op. 51 (string quartet, 1787). (Rec. 2002.) [69:03] Emerson Quartet: Eugene Drucker, Philip Setzer (vlns), Lawrence Dutton (vla), David Finckel (vlc). DG 474 836-2 (http://www.deutschegrammophon.com/us/).

Improving or tampering? Emerson’s typical qualities prevail.

I feel the earth move

pragadigitals_prddsd250291

Joseph HAYDN: The Seven Last Words of Our Saviour On the Cross, Op. 51 (string quartet, 1787). (Rec. 2011.) [72:21] Pražák Quartet: Pavel Hůla, Vlastimil Holek (vlns), Josef Klusoň (vla), Michal Kaňka (vlc). Praga Digitals PRD/DSD 250 291 (1 SACD) (http://www.pragadigitals.com/). Distributed in the US by Harmonia Mundi (http://www.harmoniamundi.com/).

Orchestral weight – built pyramid fashion. Finesse, certainly.

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“… string quartets love playing this piece. Colin Hampton, the cellist of the Griller Quartet, likened it to Bach’s St. Matthew Passion….” – James David Jacobs

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equipment

Bryston BCD-1 player – Acoustic Revive XLR interconnects – Schiit Mjolnir headphone amp – Ergo AMT (Heil) headset.