Yeree Suh (soprano), Tilman Lichdi (tenor), Matthias Winckhler (baritone); La Capella Reial de Catalunya; Les Concert des Nations/Jordi Savall
Alia Vox AVSA 9945 (CD/SACD) 96:19 mins (2 discs)
A recording of The Creation has been a long-cherished project for Jordi Savall, whose CD of Haydn’s Seven Last Words in its original orchestral version was made more than 30 years ago, in the Oratory in Cádiz for which it was written. The location for this new Creation was the Castle of Cardona, in Savall’s native Catalonia – a very reverberant acoustic which suits his highly dramatic account of the opening ‘Representation of Chaos’ well enough, but which is perhaps a little too lively elsewhere. The chorus, in particular, sounds unfocused and undernourished at times, and the choral movements that end each of the oratorio’s three parts really need to carry more weight and grandeur.
That said, Savall’s view of the music feels unerringly right throughout, with tempos always judiciously chosen, and Haydn’s famous moments – the splendour of the sunrise and the mystery of the rising moon, the depictions of animals, insects and fish, the radiant calm of the Garden of Eden with its highly original sound of three flutes in close harmony – all vividly conveyed. The choice of a fortepiano, rather than the usual harpsichord, as a continuo instrument for the recitatives was surely sensible for a work that was, after all, composed in the late 1790s.
Savall has assembled a fine cast of soloists, with Tilman Lichdi particularly impressive in the tenor role of Uriel. Despite reservations about the recording venue, this is a performance of Haydn’s great oratorio that can be warmly recommended.