LABELS: Deutsche Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Die Schöpfung
PERFORMER: Simone Kermes, Dorothee Mields (soprano), Steve Davislim (tenor), Johannes Mannov, Locky Chung (baritone); Balthasar Neumann Choir & Ensemble/Thomas Hengelbrock
CATALOGUE NO: 05472 77537 2
This new Creation is a joyous, pungent, up-tempo affair, very much in the mould of Gardiner (DG Archiv) and Weil (Sony). Throughout the performance conductor and orchestra rarely miss a trick with Haydn’s graphic orchestral detail, whether in the zoological extravaganza in Part 2, complete with gleefully farting contrabassoon, or the ethereal introduction to Part 3. The 28-strong mixed chorus, if a tad less incisive (and less immediately recorded) than Gardiner’s Monteverdi Choir or the Tölz Boys Choir for Bruno Weil, sings with confidence and relish, and packs a proper punch in the big numbers.
The soloists, as so often, are less consistently satisfying. Best are Johannes Mannov as Raphael, amply firm and sonorous, and tenor Steve Davislim, lyrical but with a touch of metal in the timbre – though in his aria hymning the first couple he compromises elegance of line by snatching at the paired quavers. The Adam and Eve sing pleasantly enough, if without much personality. But the biggest drawback is the Gabriel of Simone Kermes, who coos and trills prettily in her avian aria, but elsewhere is often tremulous and unsteady. Gardiner’s Sylvia McNair may be a touch coy, but both she and the virginal-toned Ann Monoyios for Weil are far more poised and assured.
Also on the downside are moments of queasy-sounding rubato, and the use of bare fortepiano, without the prescribed cello, for the recitatives. A far from negligible Creation, then. But among period versions it is still Gardiner, even more than the exuberant but sometimes over-hasty Weil, who provides the richest, most thrilling realisation of Haydn’s unsullied vision. Richard Wigmore