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Recorded in 2009, this is a splendidly concentrated account of the string quartet version of Haydn’s masterpiece (Die sieben lezten Worte originally appeared as an orchestral work, plus there are also choral and piano versions).

Haydn writes a succession of eight contemplative slow movements (an Introduzione and seven sonatas, appended by a brief but striking Presto e con tutta la forza coda). The first violin’s ruminative lines in Sonata I are beautifully managed; the tenderness of the relationship between Jesus and his mother in Sonata III is palpable. The close, dry recording serves to underline the sparse nature of Haydn’s expression.

The achingly sad silences of Sonata IV speak volumes. This is a terrific, heart-breaking performance; the force of that Presto finale is remarkable, its modernity palpable. The Cuarteto Casals offers a fine alternative, as do the Emersons, but there is something about the skeletal nature of this performance that punctures the soul.

COLIN CLARKE Read the full review on Agora Classica

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