The Creation

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LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: The Creation
PERFORMER: Julia Kleiter (soprano), Maximilian Schmitt (tenor), Johannes Weisser (bass); RIAS Chamber Choir/Hans-Chrisoph Rademann; Freiberg Baroque Orchestra/René Jacobs

René Jacobs follows up his earlier highly successful recording of The Seasons with one of Haydn’s other major oratorio, founded, like its predecessor, on the highly dramatic sounds of the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra.
Nowhere are these more vividly deployed than in the opening Representation of Chaos in what, at the time of The Creation’s premiere in 1798, must have seemed an overwhelming extremity of writing.
Throughout Jacobs is alert to the music’s detail, to its harmonic significance and sense of movement, and there are some delightful small cadenza-like flourishes from his fortepiano continuo player.
Only in the grandly structured choruses is there a lack of a sense of dynamic build achieved through sense of direction, though the RIAS Chamber Choir is notable for its consistent refinement of tone.
The scale of singing of all three soloists matches well with that of the performance as a whole. Johannes Weisser’s relatively lightweight bass provides a keen focus on the work’s text. Maximilian Schmitt’s tenor is direct and vigorous.
More uneven is Julia Kleiter’s soprano, occasionally a bit thin in tone and not always smack in the centre of the note; her coloratura is also inexact. The soloists do deploy, however, an occasional and delicate use of decoration.
The sound is impeccably clear and well balanced, affording a fine overview of the sound-picture while allowing the listener to home in on the finer detail of every aspect of Haydn’s miraculous writing. George Hall