With its original members taken from the principal chairs of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, the Leipzig String Quartet has been a strong force on the chamber music scene since 1988. Its dozens of recordings have covered repertoire from the early classical to the most cutting-edge avant-garde. In 2009, the ensemble returns to the roots of its repertoire with the beginning of a survey of the Haydn quartets. Curiously, the group has chosen the Op. 51 String Quartet, known better as "The Seven Last Words of Our Savior on the Cross." Haydn originally composed this commissioned work for full orchestra, but his own versions for string quartet and oratorio are much more commonly known today. The work is, as would be expected, deeply solemn and earnest. Haydn himself commented on the difficulty in composing a piece with all slow movements, and the same difficulty exists in its performance. The Leipzig Quartet, however, succeeds in maintaining a great deal of energy and forward momentum while retaining the dignity and tone of the piece. Intonation and articulation are splendidly refined throughout. Haydn assigned the majority of the melodic duties to the first violin, and Stefan Arzberger's sound definitely comes to the forefront, but the important and often descriptive accompaniment is still clearly audible. MDG's sound is clean and pure without being dry. Listening in SACD mode gives listeners the sense of being surrounded by the quartet in a church. MDG also offers its 2+2+2 sound, but listening to it requires the addition of more front speakers and rewiring existing setups, something with which few listeners are likely to bother.
AllMusic Review by Mike D. Brownell
|Die Sieben letzten Worte unseres Erlösers am Kreuze (The Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross), for string quartet, H. 3/50-56|