Seven more last words

Walt Mundkowsky

[September 2013.]

philips_412782 philips_6514153

Joseph HAYDNThe Seven Last Words of Our Saviour On the Cross, Op. 51 (string quartet, 1787). Gidon Kremer, Kathrin Rabus (vlns), Gérard Caussé (vla), Ko Iwasaki (vlc). Philips 412 878-2 (CD), Philips 6514 153 (LP); O/P but copies in both formats can be found. Download at

Gidon Kremer’s Seven Last Words, 32 years ago and little remembered, ends this survey. (Not that what I covered should close the subject.)

An early digital recording (July 1981), it reached LP the following year. The 67:04 duration meant very long sides; a CD issue waited until 1990.

Four players, an ad hoc team. (Ensemble is razor-sharp.) After Kremer, the most prominent is violist Gérard Caussé with his 1560 Gasparo da Salò.

Kremer’s encounters with the Classical era could be wayward, but here he is wholly committed. The result isn’t precisely a string-quartet sound. Kremer leads, often quietly, but the underlying strength cannot be questioned.

All repeats are taken, in an undisguised fashion. That sense of time going by vigorously is decisive, the pizzicati suggesting a ticking clock. Pent-up force breaks free in a ripping earthquake. Kremer & Co. move right to the edge of what the quartet score can accommodate.

Close but spacious sound, poor notes.

* * *

“… Kremer and colleagues, who offer virtuosity on fire….”
Classical Music: The Listener’s Companion (Alexander J. Morin, ed.), 2002

* * *


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

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