Franz Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
The Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross, Op. 51 [64:17]
Cuarteto Almus (Manuel de Juan (violin I); Vicente Antón (violin II); Octavio de Juan (viola); Francisco Pastor (cello)) Rvdo. P. Guillermo Domínguez Leonsegui (Vicario General de la Diócesis de Cádiz y Ceuta), Evangelista
Picture format 16:9; Sound format Dolby Digital 2.0; Region Code 0 (Worldwide).
rec. 20 May 2009, Cathedral Santa Cueva de Cádiz, Spain.
COLUMNA MUSICA 1CM 2072 [64:00]
Haydn’s Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross is one of my favorite works for string quartet. It is an arrangement of an orchestral piece that Haydn composed which he later adapted as an oratorio. This work sounds very little like his string quartets, and has a beauty and tension that are unique in the string quartet literature. I have a number of recordings, but this is the first I have come across on DVD, at least for string quartet. There is an orchestral version on DVD, conducted by Riccardo Muti. I was not familiar with The Cuarteto Almus, a Spanish string quartet, before receiving this disc.
Unfortunately, both the quartet and the DVD leave much to be desired. While this is a solemn work, the Cuarteto Almus plays it in a turgid manner, sitting in a marble section of a church staring down at their scores, offering little emotion, and not even the slightest hint of zest. At times, the tone of the first violin is a bit off. The filming is banal, and there are cuts to shots of religious paintings or statues to try to spice things up; they add little to the overall work. The sound is poor and, at times, in the loud passages, it is distorted.
What is really disturbing is the fact that after each movement of the work, the camera cuts to a shot of a preacher saying something in Spanish, then reciting part of the Latin text that the work is based on. As there are no subtitles, I have no idea what the preacher says. There are subtitles for the Latin; in Latin. Granted, this is how the work was originally meant to be performed, but as a musical work it stands on its own, and the interruptions of the priest detract from the music.
There is little to recommend this DVD.
Kirk writes about more than just music on his blog Kirkville (http://www.mcelhearn.com).
Little to recommend here: a turgid performance, poor sound, and more it detracts from Haydn’s magnificent music.