Gidon Kremer: violin
Kathrin Rabus: violin
Gerard Caussé: viola
Ko Iwasaki: violoncello
Lossless: Ape (img + cue + log) = 269 mb
Lossy: Mp3 (lame "preset standard") = 92 mb
Scans @ 300dpi = 12 mb
Total playing time: 67:02
Recorded: July 1981, Loenen a/d Vecht, The Netherlands
Released: 1981, Philips 412 878-2
1. Introduction (Maestoso ed adagio)
2. I: Largo - "Pater, dimitte illis; non enim sciunt, quid faciunt"
3. II: Grave e cantabile - "Amen dico tibi: hodie mecum eris in paradiso"
4. III: Grave - "Mulier, ecce filius tuus, et tu, ecce mater tua!"
5. IV: Largo - "Eli, Eli, lama asabthani?"
6. V: Adagio - "Sitio"
7. VI: Lento - "Consumatum est"
8. VII: Largo - "Pater, in tuas manus commendo spiritum meum"
Haydn wrote his orchestral setting for The Seven Last Words of our Saviour on the Cross in 1786, in response to a request from a canon of Cádiz. As the composer himself said, some 15 years later: "The effect in performance was not a little enhanced by the following circumstances. The walls, windows and pillars of the church were hung with black cloth, and only one large lamp hanging from the centre of the roof broke the solemn blackness... After a short service the bishop ascended the pulpit, pronounced the first of the seven words (or sentences) and delivered a discourse thereon. This ended, he left the pulpit, and prostrated himself before the altar. The interval was filled by music. The bishop then in like manner pronounced the second word, then the third, and so on, the orchestra following on the conclusion of each discourse. My composition was subject to these conditions, and it was no easy task to compose seven adagios lasting ten minutes each, and to succeed one another without fatiguing the listeners; indeed, I found it quite impossible to confine myself to the appointed limits."
Haydn made a string quartet arrangement in 1787, and gave his blessing to a piano arrangement published by Artaria in the same year; he also made a choral version in 1796 with words adapted by Baron van Swieten. I am convinced that this latter version (of which no recording is at present available) is the most effective of the four unless the music is heard in circumstances similar to those of the original Spanish performance, for, despite the poignant beauty of the separate movements as instrumental pieces, the listener undeniably runs some risk of fatigue when hearing them in close succession, without some aural or visual relief. The string quartet version was made for domestic use, and for the enjoyment of the players rather than of a captive audience; and of the various recordings of the work by a string quartet the most successful one remains, to my mind, that by the Aeolian Quartet, in which the movements are separated by a selection of poems beautifully delivered by Sir Peter Pears (Decca HDNV82, 9/77). That much said, I have nothing but the highest praise for this vividly recorded new Philips digital version, which features playing of great sensitivity and finesse, and which, with all repeats observed, has a total playing time of appreciably more than one hour.
This is one of those beautifully realized recreations of a small group playing in a largish room at which the Philips producer/engineers excel. Details are not given as to who was responsible for this example but, eyes closed, one can picture each player, sense their effort, respond to their emotion and feel the elan when a little bit of 'business' comes off. I would not recommend taking in the whole 67 minutes at one go, but this is certainly a disc to come back to. Note the fine sounding viola.
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