On this recording of The Seven Words, the Rosamunde String Quartet offers a compelling rendition of one of Haydn's most complex compositions. The Seven Words was originally composed for a full orchestra as a series of seven adagios, which were meant to be interludes during a congregation's meditations on the last seven words of Christ on the Cross. Haydn struggled with a way to compose seven connected pieces of music that were solemn and yet varied enough to keep the listener from getting bored. The members of the Rosamunde Quartet are technically brilliant as they demonstrate the composer's solutions to this musical puzzle. Even though the tempo is slow, they never let the music become ponderous or oppressive. But to Haydn, The Seven Words was more than just an aural conundrum. He felt the composition was perhaps his most sacred work, and the quartet plays this music with reverence for the composer's spiritual intentions. This is a profound piece of music, and the Rosamunde does it justice on each of its many levels.
2010's mammoth, highly collectible and very limited, 19-disc Sandy Denny box set was truly a thing to behold, presenting the entirety of her career from studio to stage to front porch. It was a completist's dream, but it came with an exceptionally high price tag, which makes the appearance of 2011's Notes and the Words: A Collection of Demos and Rarities a real gift for fans, especially those who already own the complete studio recordings, whether solo or with Fotheringay, Strawbs, or Fairport Convention. The handsome, limited-edition four-disc box skims the cream from the top of the myriad rarities, BBC sessions, demos, and outtakes that made the previous collection so remarkable (an intimate bedroom recording of Jackson C. Frank's "Blues Run the Game"; an early demo of Like an Old Fashioned Waltz's "Carnival" with previously unheard melodies and lyrics; a blistering alternate studio take of a Dave Swarbrick-less "Sailor's Life," and alternate versions of Fairport classics like "Matty Groves," "Come All Ye," and "Fotheringay"), resulting in a wonderful window into one of English folk music's most magnificent voices.