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Haydn: Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross Import

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Audio CD, Import, March 9, 2004
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Haydn: Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross + Bach: Art of Fugue for String Quartet
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Editorial Reviews

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In 1785, the Cathedral of Cádiz commissioned Haydn to write seven orchestral interludes, to be performed during Holy Week services between the bishop's recitation of Jesus' seven last words, plus an introduction and an epilogue depicting the earthquake after His death. Though Haydn later complained about the difficulty of composing eight consecutive slow movements that would not "fatigue the listener," but "produce the deepest impression...in his soul," he succeeded magnificently. The work is surely one of his great masterpieces. Originally scored for full orchestra, he arranged it for string quartet (the most familiar version), for piano, and subsequently also for soloists, chorus and orchestra on a text by Baron van Swieten. This recording, part of the Emerson's Haydn Project, is wonderful. Though the texture is full and often contrapuntal, the first violin generally carries the melody. As always, the Emerson's violinists share the lead. Their tone, while sometimes perhaps too luxurious, is beautiful, and the collective sound is warm, pure and transparent. With inmost expressiveness, they evoke the work's human agony in all its pleading, despair and resignation, as well as its serene promise of heaven. Inveterate innovators, they have made numerous textual changes, incorporating elements of the orchestral version to enhance sonority and voicing; they even include an all-wind movement that Haydn added to his choral version in their own transcription. Though Haydn intended the music to express the text by purely instrumental means, the Emerson's suggestion that the main theme of each movement is a setting of the salient "word" or sentence (in Latin, the language of the Catholic church service) is intriguing. Despite Haydn's misgivings, the performance easily sustains interest through eight (here nine) slow movements, and though one misses the original's trumpets and kettledrums, the "Earthquake" is very effective. --Edith Eisler

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Product Details

  • Performer: Franz Joseph Haydn, Emerson String Quartet
  • Audio CD (March 9, 2004)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Import
  • Label: Deutsche Grammophon
  • ASIN: B0001BUC10
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #159,423 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Marcellus on March 30, 2006
Format: Audio CD
I never thought much of Haydn as a composer beyond the generic praise any music lover is bound to give him, but hearing fragments of this work here at Amazon compelled me to buy this recording.

By now, I have a new-found respect for Haydn and this recording has become one of my most cherished. The grandeur and intensity permeating this work from start to finish is startling. My favourite piece, Nr. 5, has all the power of a De Lassus penitential psalm or a highlight from Bach's cantatas or the St. Matthew - yes, unequivocally.
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36 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Nurallah Jivraj on May 17, 2004
Format: Audio CD
Recording after recording by the Emersons of the mainstream quartet repertoire has disappointed at the last hurdle, when, despite magnificent playing, intense attention to detail and composer's markings etc.. they just did not seem to have that certain "voice" that made Vegh's Beethoven, Beethoven;, or the Borodin's Shostakovich, Shostakovich. Even in the highly lauded Bartok, the old Tokyo and Julliard sets just seemed to have the feel of the music musch better... But hold on - what's this - Bach - the recent Art of the Fugue recording - and Haydn - and the Emersons ???
I must say that the very two pieces that I had to date had found very difficult to absorb and enjoy consistently, now are the most played chamber discs, and all credit to the Emersons for taking on such major projects and brining them off famously. the Hadyn in particular, is very intense, yet no doubt about it - this is gray old papa Haydn in his most personal voice....
Well done gents .... keep surprising us ..... now if they wer to take on some Henze, Hartmann, Ligeti .......
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Joe on June 10, 2009
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This is a beautiful work, beautifully done by a quartet firmly in control of their instruments, and completely coordinated. The music is heartfelt and the ending is simple but powerful. By coincidence it was playing (and is, as I write) when I opened the email requesting a review. Except for an old vynal (spelin isn't my stong point: 33 1/3 rpm lp) of this work (I forget who performed it - I do remember the record was red, not black), I am not familiar with other quartets who have performed it, but cannot believe any does it better. If so, let me know, and I will certainly give them a listen. You do not have to be religious to appreciate this music - it can be heard as an abstract work for a string quartet.

There are orchestral and vocal versions available as well - I have them also, but the original version as a string quartet is easily the most satisfying.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Susan A. Bolle on April 16, 2013
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful CD! The Emerson String Quartet performs Haydn beautifully and recreates the solemn atmosphere that must have prevailed during its execution during Holy Week.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Russ Bailey on September 11, 2012
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
An exciting musical with great solos and choir numbers. The work should be done with a larger choir so that the full sound of the music can be appreciated.
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