Haydn: The Creation

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COMPOSERS: Haydn
LABELS: BR Klassik
ALBUM TITLE: Haydn: The Creation
WORKS: The Creation
PERFORMER: Camilla Tilling (soprano), Mark Padmore (tenor), Hanno Müller-Brachmann (bass); Bavarian Radio Symphony Chorus & Orchestra/Bernard Haitink

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Bernard Haitink, 85 this year, has been extending his repertory to include some of the mightiest choral classics. While Haydn symphonies have long formed part of his repertory, Haitink’s long-delayed approach to this crowning masterpiece – his first Creation was made in Chicago October 2011 – surely reflects his characteristic humility in the face of great music.

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Recorded last year live in Munich, this new recording’s greatest strength is in Haitink’s conducting – its combination of taut control and pleasure in collaboration, of long-range vision and command of detail. Rhythms are springy; control of ensemble is at once muscular and fastidious; broad tempos never feel slow. Other sets may show a sharper appreciation of Haydn’s wit and delight in instrumental colour: John Eliot Gardiner in period style, Herbert von Karajan, Neville Marriner and, with the same Bavarian forces (and for all his underlining tendencies), Leonard Bernstein. It’s the sweep and feeling for wholeness that compel admiration here. A pity, therefore, that the recording itself, wide in dynamic levelling but denying sufficient prominence to the (excellent) chorus, doesn’t fully capture those signature qualities. And the soloists, particularly in comparison with those elsewhere, slightly lack class: the bass verbally vivid but tonally coarse, the tenor frequently unsteady, the soprano free-spirited but apt to squeeze notes. Still, this is a noble demonstration of conducting greatness. Max Loppert