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Haydn - The Seven Last Words of our Saviour on the Cross


The Scaramouche Quartet

Werner Neugebauer- violin
Cornelia Löscher- violin
Firmian Lermer- viola
Detlef Mielke- cello

Coviello: COV20905


These are the seven last words of Christ:

“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
“My God why have you forsaken me?” ( Matthew 27:46)
‘He said to his mother, “woman behold your son!” then he said to his disciple, “behold your mother”’ (John 19:26-27)
"I thirst!" (John 19:28)                                                                                                     
"Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." (Luke 23:43)
"It is finished!"
(John 19:30)                                                                                         
"Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit." (Luke 23:46)

A heavy subject, both spiritually and emotionally charged, for a debut CD.

Haydn’s music is sublime, transporting the listener with his harmonic ingenuity. A devout catholic himself, he was commissioned to write this music by the Canon of Cadiz to intersperse the spoken words of the service, which was most probably held on Good Friday.

The original was written for orchestra, although Haydn transcribed both a choral and quartet version from this. There is some doubt as to whether the quartet version is authentic, some motifs occurring in the woodwind having been omitted from the transcription. Nonetheless, the Scaramouche quartet manage to navigate the nuances of Haydn’s work with much greater subtlety than an orchestra could realistically achieve. It is a recording of compelling intimacy. 

The Scaramouche Quartet perform on period instruments. A good choice; in their hands the gut strings give a warm poignant sound, ideally suited to the topic, and the lower pitch (A = 430 Hz) a darker intensity. The only criticism I have is that the intonation is somewhat  fruity on occasion. A word of warning to the listener; if not accustomed to period performances it can take a while to get used to the lower pitch.

The tempi chosen by the Scaramouche quartet are slightly faster than those one is accustomed to hearing, allowing the music to flow rather than to become stagnant. This is in keeping with Haydn’s recognition that ‘...it was no easy task to compose seven adagios lasting ten minutes each and to succeed one another without fatiguing the listeners...’ The balance on the recording is fantastic, with enough bass, provided by a gloriously gutsy cello, to support the upper parts.

This is a beautiful recording of transcendental music. Superb listening in spite of the intonational niggles.

Anna Michel

Joseph Haydn (1801) in Joseph Haydn, The Seven Last Words of our Saviour on the Cross, Scaramouche Quartett,  CD liner notes, (Darmstadt: Coveillo Classics, 2009) 10.