Haydn: Seven Last Words of our Saviour on the Cross

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COMPOSERS: Haydn
LABELS: Coviello
WORKS: Seven Last Words of our Saviour on the Cross
PERFORMER: Scaramouche Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: COV 20905

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Haydn composed his Seven Last Words for a religious community in Cadiz in 1787 as an orchestral work. Arrangements followed as an oratorio, for keyboard (which was approved rather than undertaken by the composer) and string quartet, the latter arguably distilling the work to its most concentrated essence.

Founded in 2008 and based in Germany, the Scaramouche Quartet specialises in the works of the Viennese classical period performed in period style. They employ minimal vibrato, and an occasional resulting starkness is not inappropriate to the piece, though it does highlight the odd minor deficiency in intonation.

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Their playing is decisive and articulate, offering a striking sense of character and displaying a homogeneity of approach, but its expressive quality is never overdone. If anything there’s a slight sense of containment, notable at such obviously dramatic points as the final Earthquake – the only fast movement in the piece. This is accentuated by an acoustic that maintains a sense of distance while combining clarity with resonance. George Hall