Although it is played on a period instrument, no one is arguing that this recording of Haydn's The Seven Last Words of Christ is historically authentic. The work, exceptionally in Haydn's output, exists in multiple versions, for orchestra, string quartet, chorus, and keyboard (either fortepiano or harpsichord). But surely Haydn did not have the instrument heard here, the rare tangent piano, in his head. This was, speaking roughly, a piano-harpsichord hybrid that never really found its footing in the late 18th century. As long as listeners are down with the idea of a fairly speculative recording, the effect of the tangent piano in this particular work is electrifying. Lubimov gets the best of both worlds: the intimacy of the keyboard version and the dynamic contrasts and timbral shadings of the orchestral original. The keyboard transcription is not by Haydn himself but was made in his own time, and he approved it. Lubimov works from this, tweaking it and adding contrasts that break up the seven consecutive slow movements and give them an extraordinarily expressive quality. Even when listeners know it's coming, the final Terremoto movement, depicting the earthquake following Christ's crucifixion, comes as a shock. Listeners will never hear the work quite the same way again after experiencing this recording, and even if Haydn didn't intend it this way, most may well end up wishing he had.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|The Seven Last Words of Christ, Op. 51, Hob. 3:50-56|