This is Jordi Savall's second recording of this work; his earlier one is my version of reference (particularly if you like period instruments), but this new one, recorded in the space for which Haydn wrote the piece (the Church of Santa Cueva in Cadiz, Spain) is even better. Purely as a matter of sonority, this newcomer offers a warmer, better balanced orchestral perspective with smoother string tone, making the ensemble sound larger and more imposing. You can hear the difference in the stabbing motive that begins the work, but you'll also notice how it gives the final earthquake (taken a bit slower than previously) decidedly more impact.
On the whole, tempos are similar in both versions, but there are a couple of significant differences. One of these concerns the climax of the entire work, Sonata IV (My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?). Savall shaves a good two minutes off of his previous speed, and it's all to the good, adding a greater feeling of urgency to the music's ultimate yielding to despair. Also as before, Savall includes a speaker reading the relevant bits of scripture (in Latin) in between the sonatas, a practice I find unnecessarily distracting and unmusical. We could just as easily read them ourselves, but then they aren't long and you can skip them as I do if you find them bothersome. All in all, the differences (and improvements) between the two versions more than justify this beautifully recorded remake. Just when you thought it couldn't get any better... --David Hurwitz