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Haydn: The Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross. Antonio Janigro, I Solisti de Zagreb. Vanguard SVC-133.

Haydn: The Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross. Antonio Janigro, I Solisti de Zagreb. Vanguard SVC-133.

Haydn himself must have loved this work. He first published the orchestral version, heard here, in 1787, followed immediately by a vocal version, then an arrangement for string quartet, and finally a keyboard transcription corrected and approved by him. As originally conceived, it was to be a series of seven adagios of about ten minutes each to accompany the seven last words of Christ, plus an introduction and conclusion. But even Haydn had trouble with such a succession, as he said, "without wearying the listener," and found he had to vary the pace considerably more. The result under the direction of Antonio Janigro and the chamber orchestra I Solisti de Zagreb from 1967 is exceptionally musical, as varied as Haydn had hoped, and intensely satisfying.

A few years ago I reviewed a Denon release with the Kuijken Quartet that was even more intensely beautiful and even better recorded than this. But done at a relatively slow pace and with no cuts whatsoever, it lasted almost a full half-hour longer than the fifty-two minutes it takes Janigro to get through the work. Maybe I'm just getting too old to sit still that long any more. I found Janigro's quicker and shortened version entirely welcome, more closely resembling the tone of Haydn's symphonies than the quartet does, which has a greater overall suggestion of the sacred as opposed to the orchestral version's more secular approach. And Vanguard's analogue sound, while not so transparent as the newer digital recording on Denon, is still excellent, with just a touch of reverberation for a natural concert hall effect. Either way, orchestra or quartet, The Seven Last Words is a touching piece of music, and it's good to see it so well represented in the catalog.
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Puccio, John
Publication:Sensible Sound
Article Type:Sound Recording Review
Date:Sep 1, 2000
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