Haydn Seven Words (The)
Like the Fitzwilliam Quartet‚ whose nuance sensitive Linn recording of The Seven Last Words I welcomed last month‚ this ECM version is alert not only to musical texture‚ but to the modulating phrase (try from 2'05" into the Introduzione) and the dramaturgy of key changes between movements.
The playing is limpid and subtly coloured‚ sparing of vibrato (in that respect the Rosamunde are heedful of various periodinstrument models) and‚ at the beginning of the third movement‚ suspended in a sense of rapture. And yet when‚ in the same movement‚ the melody line shifts into the major (at around 1'21")‚ cushioned on a mobile accompaniment‚ they up the pace slightly‚ mirroring perfectly the idea of forgiveness. That’s another imaginative aspect of this performance‚ the way it reflects the sense of the text‚ just as Haydn does in those movements that seem to follow the pattern of the words he set. This feeling of narrative is especially keen in the fourth movement‚ ‘Woman‚ behold thy son!’ and the closing ‘Earthquake’.
So the list of virtues is fairly simple to enumerate: variety and refinement of tone‚ internal clarity‚ historical awareness‚ imagination and a certain poise that not all its rivals can claim in equal measure. It serves well as a compromise between periodinstrument clarity and moderninstrument warmth‚ being broader than the Fitzwilliam by around four minutes‚ though the performance never drags. I marginally prefer it‚ mainly because I favour the Rosamunde’s fuller instrumental sonority. But if you’ve already bought the Linn CD – which‚ like this one‚ is beautifully recorded – you needn’t feel tempted to swap. Either version provides firstrate reportage of a wonderful score.