One of the summits of Viennese classicism, Haydn's The Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross—a sequence of seven sacred adagios, with an intro and conclusion—is available in arrangemen

One of the summits of Viennese classicism, Haydn's The Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross—a sequence of seven sacred adagios, with an intro and conclusion—is available in arrangements for string quartet, orchestra, and orchestra and chorus (with the latter in oratorio form). The one for string quartet is still the most popular, and music lovers are spoiled for choice, with several excellent renditions in the catalog. This period-instrument version by Britain's Fitzwilliam String Quartet serves as a rival to the fine period set by Quatuor Mosaïques (Astrée/Naïve), and it comes at the same time as ECM's issue of a new modern-instrument take by the Rosamunde Quartett. Both the Fitzwilliam and the Rosamunde are lovingly recorded, although many may prefer the more immediate Linn sound over the ambient ECM sonics. More important, the Fitzwilliam's gut strings and unaffected tempi seem to better bring out the plangent quality of Haydn's lines, even over the Rosamunde's more considered interpretive approach. The Fitzwilliam's Seven Last Words speaks straight to the heart. Distributed in North America by Allegro.—BB