Haydn: The Creation

Nicole Heaston, Toby Spence, Peter Rose; Houston Symphony Chorus & Orchestra/Andrés Orozco-Estrada (Pentatone)

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Haydn The Creation
Nicole Heaston (soprano), Toby Spence (tenor), Peter Rose (bass); Houston Symphony Chorus & Orchestra/Andrés Orozco-Estrada
Pentatone PTC 5186 614 (hybrid CD/ SACD) 99:27 mins (2 discs)

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Given the parlous state of the environment today, the pre-industrial Enlightenment optimism which irradiates Haydn’s vast three-part oratorio celebrating the creation of the natural world is unutterably moving. The result of 15 months of work, the oratorio was an enduring success of which he was justifiably proud. This grand account pulls the work firmly into the 21st century, offering large-scale choral-orchestral bombast as well as delicate recitative accompaniments which owe much to historically- informed techniques.

Conductor Andrés Orozco-Estrada savours every moment of harmonic and textural drama. The pace is well-judged, generous at sweetly tender or particularly knotty harmonic moments, but with plenty of pace and dynamism carrying the action forward. The large forces are expertly marshalled, weighty but never leaden, with plenty of textural interest. The vast Houston Symphony Chorus sounds surprisingly agile thanks to the diligent, percussive enunciation of every consonant. The soloists are similarly operatic in scale. Peter Rose is by turns ferociously dramatic and magnificently dignified, and evidently savours the meaty German. Toby Spence and Nicole Heaston are less easy with the language, but are otherwise appropriately heroic; in particular, Heaston’s steely, brilliant soprano cuts effortlessly and thrillingly through the texture. This fine recording moves effortlessly between pastoral intimacy and titanic grandeur, with everything in between. Some might quibble at the ultra-bright sound (and the poorly proofread liner note), but the recording is well balanced across the range, and individual instrumental timbres shine through. A hugely enjoyable account.

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Natasha Loges