An extraordinary disc in every way, this release from Deutsche Grammophon presents a new edition of a profound masterpiece, wonderfully performed by a great string quartet in splendid, lifelike sound. Composed for Good Friday services, Haydn
's "The Seven Last Words of Our Savior on the Cross" is, in its most familiar version, a sequence of seven slow sonatas with an introduction and a concluding fast movement. On this recording, however, an additional movement is borrowed from Haydn's later choral adaptation, and appears as the Largo e cantabile introduction to the "Sonata V." At first, this interpolation may seem unnecessary or unusual for novelty's sake, but when the beauty of the music is appreciated, it is easy to see why the ensemble felt drawn to include it. The Emerson Quartet
's playing is superb throughout: rich in sonority, exquisite in timbres, immaculate in execution, and absolutely compelling in emotional involvement. A moving performance may well be expected from these excellent musicians, but they have outdone themselves, especially in conveying the music's spirituality and mystery. Deutsche Grammophon's terrific recording aids enjoyment, for the full-frequency sound captures the subtlest nuances with clarity and depth. On all accounts, then, this album must be considered a resounding success and is recommended as essential listening.