Haydn: Die Schöpfung

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COMPOSERS: Haydn
LABELS: Archiv
WORKS: Die Schöpfung
PERFORMER: Sylvia McNair, Donna Brown (soprano), Michael Schade (tenor), Gerald Finley, Rodney Gilfry (bass) Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists/John Eliot Gardiner
CATALOGUE NO: 449 217-2
It was while in London in the 1790s that Haydn, inspired by hearing several Handel oratorios, decided to attempt a similar work. When he returned to Vienna in 1795 he took with him a libretto, supposedly written for Handel, and this provided the basis for The Creation. First performed publicly in March 1799, the work quickly became a sensational hit throughout Europe.

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If Handel did reject the libretto, it was perhaps because it departed from the human conflicts and emotional extremes that fired his greatest music. The Creation is a hundred-minute paean to God and Nature, its text expressing little besides awe, wonder and praise. Haydn’s genius is evident in his ability to animate the subject in such colourful, dramatic music. He cleverly shuffles his chorus and soloists, mixes Handelian grandeur with pastoral enchantment and employs a brilliant array of illustrative effects, from humorous depictions of the lion’s roar and tiger’s leap, to lovely evocations of sunrise, and the opening ‘Representation of Chaos’.

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This John Eliot Gardiner recording uses the German libretto and period instruments. It is beautifully sung, exquisitely played, superbly paced and vividly detailed, and the moments of hushed reverence are as transfixing as the majestic choral climaxes. An enthralling performance. Graham Lock