Die Schöpfung · The Creation
Sandrine Piau · Mark Padmore
Neal Davies · Miah Persson
Peter Harvey · Ruth Massey
Gabrieli Consort and Players
Int. Release 04 Jan. 2008
2 CDs / Download
0289 477 7361 0 2 CDs DDD AH2
. . . Paul McCreesh's emendations are . . . more successful, retaining all the Milton-inspired quaintness of van Swieten's text while rectifying his mistranslations and clumsy Germanic word order . . . Abetted by the glowing, spacious acoustics of Watford Town Hall, the big celebratory choruses make a more powerful impact than in any of the rival period versions . . . there is no denying the incandescence of the climaxes of "The heavens are telling" and the final "Praise the Lord, uplift your voices". In all the choruses McCreesh's pacing -- eager but never hectic -- and rhythmic energy are wonderfully inspiriting . . . McCreesh's trump card is his solo team, superb both individually and as an exceptionally sensitive ensemble. I can't recall ever hearing the trio near the close of Part 2, "On thee each living soul awaits", sung with such radiant inwardness. Other highlights include Sandrine Piau's graceful, smiling "With verdure clad", here a truly happy song to the spring . . . for a "Creation" in English, this new version -- exhilarating, poetic and marvellously sung -- becomes the prime recommendation.
. . . this release comprises one of the most impressive feats of engineering that I have ever encountered. From its timbral accuracy to its extraordinary dynamic range it comes closer to in-hall reality than any other recording of "The Creation" I've heard. Never has the chorus sounded so well focused, its words clearly discernible . . . so powerful is the sonic impact throughout the production, even a whispered piano, soft as it is, seems physically palpable . . . Under McCreesh the choral textures are more clearly focused, the orchestral choirs more cleanly delineated, features as much a credit to the conductor as to the engineering. Of course the performance is the prime issue . . . McCreesh's pacing for this passage is considerably slower than that of other conductors. The effect is stunning, providing greater clarification of the chromatic richness and daring of the entire section. Like most 'period' versions, this one is free of the comparative stodginess and muddiness that has stamped the work of more celebrated conductors . . . this release is the 'period' version to have . . .
Particularly impressive is a release of Haydn's "Creation" . . . it boasts exceptional clarity and power. Sonically, it is as realistic a recording of a group this size as any I have heard, the clarity of the English in choral passages being extraordinary. For anyone seeking a period-instrument version, this well-paced, dramatic account superbly led by Paul McCreesh may prove a preferred edition.
McCreesh's exceedingly well-sung and ¿played account of the piece is distinguished by its energy, fervor, grace, and often-overwhelming power, which convey both the transcendent majesty and the disarming tenderness of this masterpiece.
. . . durch das größere Volumen steigert sich auch die Erhabenheit der großen Chorsätze ins Grandiose, was dieser Musik unerhört gut steht. Selten hat der dem Duett von Adam und Eva im dritten Teil untermischte Lobgesang des Chors so viel Geheimnis und Größe ausgestrahlt, selten waren die Fugen so überwältigend und doch so deutlich ausformuliert zu hören. Die bestechenden Solisten, allen voran der nuanciert gestaltende Mark Padmore und Neal Davies als eloquenter Erzengel Raphael, setzen in den Arien und Duetten gleich einen Höhepunkt nach dem anderen.
Das Ergebnis dieser Mammutbesetzung ist frappierend . . . durch das größere Volumen steigert sich auch die Erhabenheit der großen Chorsätze ins Grandiose, was dieser Musik unerhört gut steht. Selten hat der dem Duett von Adam und Eva im dritten Teil untermischte Lobgesang des Chors so viel Geheimnis und Größe ausgestrahlt, selten waren die Fugen so überwältigend und doch so deutlich ausformuliert zu hören. Die bestechenden Solisten, allen voran der nuanciert gestaltende Mark Padmore und Neal Davies als eloquenter Erzengel Raphael, setzen in den Arien und Duetten gleich einen Höhepunkt nach dem anderen.
. . . alles ist "natürlich" höchste Kunst . . . Mark Padmore als Lichtengel Uriel strahlt förmlich, singt mit gelassener Überlegenheit. Sandrine Piaus stets exakt geführte, schlanke Stimme verrät Ordnungssinn und einen starken Gestaltungswillen, der aber die klassische Form nie verletzt -- und genau darum geht es in Haydns "Schöpfung".
Mit Mark Padmore hat McCreesh einen stimmlich edlen und phantasievoll gestaltenden Erzengel Uriel in seinem Ensemble, mit Neal Davies einen kraftvollen, bestechend eloquenten Raphael . . .
Mein Klassiker: So stimmig und wärmend wie ein reifer Port.
. . . alles ist "natürlich" höchste Kunst . . . Eine interessante Vorstellung des ersten Paars! Mark Padmore als Lichtengel Uriel strahlt förmlich, singt mit gelassener Überlegenheit und einem himmlischen Vibrato-Beben. Sandrine Piaus (als Raphael) stets exakt geführte, schlanke Stimme verrät Ordnungssinn und einen starken Gestaltungswillen, der aber die klassische Form nie verletzt ¿ und genau darum geht es in Haydns "Schöpfung".
Haydn's supreme achievement
David Wyn Jones
Nobody would argue with the view that The Creation is Haydn's single greatest achievement, including the composer himself, who, over a period of 18 months in 1796-98, worked on it with an intensity and fervour unequalled in his long career. To someone who during the previous 40 years had attained international popularity and esteem with his symphonies, quartets and keyboard sonatas, the project presented a new and unexpected challenge.
In his old age, Haydn sometimes regretted that he had not been able to compose an opera that commanded international respect, but in the oratorio he found a genre far better suited to his artistic temperament. The origins of The Creation go back to his visits to London in the early 1790s, when one of his most uplifting musical experiences was attending large-scale performances of Handel's choral works in Westminster Abbey. Most of the music was entirely new to him, and he was quite overwhelmed by the practice of performing Messiah, Israel in Egypt, Zadok the Priest and other works with several hundred singers and players.
In the words of one early biographer: “Haydn confessed to me that when he heard Handel's music in London, he was so struck by it that he began his studies all over again as if he had known nothing until that time. He mused over every note and extracted from these learned scores the essence of real musical magnificence." Handel was idolized in London as the great master of the “ancient" school, while Haydn was regarded as the master of the “school of the modern". Although there were some rumours that he was working on an oratorio, Haydn was shrewd enough to realize that it was better not to enter into direct competition with Handel. (This was to be borne out by subsequent events. Even after the very first performance in London the critic of the Morning Herald wrote, rather condescendingly: “The Oratorio of Creation, composed by Haydn, was performed at Covent Garden last night with much deserved applause...and, although not equal in grandeur to the divine compositions of the immortal Handel, is, nevertheless, on the whole, a very charming production." )
Towards the end of Haydn's second London visit (1794-95), the impresario and violinist Johann Peter Salomon gave him the libretto of an oratorio on the creation of the universe. Nothing of certainty is known about this original text, which is now lost. Haydn could not even accurately remember the name of its author. One contemporary commentator, perhaps stimulated more by the notion of divine succession than by historical accuracy, claimed that it had been intended for Handel. On his return to Vienna Haydn showed the text to Gottfried van Swieten, an admirer of Handel's music who for over ten years had promoted semi-private performances of the composer's music in the city.
If Haydn had any doubts about embarking on The Creation, Swieten played a critical part in allaying them, and he provided the composer with practical assistance, even translating the libretto into German. Swieten also arranged for the work's first semi-private performances, at the Schwarzenberg Palace in Vienna, in April and May 1798. These were received with enormous enthusiasm and paved the way for the work's first public hearings at the Burgtheater in March 1799.
During the remaining ten years of Haydn's life, numerous performances of the work were given throughout Europe, often in one of the original languages, German or English, sometimes in one of the two translations that Haydn sanctioned, French or Italian, but also in Czech, Hungarian, Russian and Swedish. The international success of The Creation was a cultural phenomenon without parallel in the history of music.
The ground-plan of The Creation is a simple one. Parts One and Two deal with the creation of the universe in six days; Part Three is an evocation of the Garden of Eden on the seventh day, the day of rest. To guide the listener through the familiar narrative and to awaken an appropriate sense of beauty and awe, the work uses three or, as in the present recording, five soloists, representing the archangels Raphael (bass), Uriel (tenor) and Gabriel (soprano) in Parts One and Two; and Adam (bass) and Eve (soprano) in Part Three.
PART ONE opens with a remarkable evocation of nothingness, of the giant black holes of space that existed before the creation. With a slow-moving alternation of massive and lightweight sonorities, the orchestra deploys an allusive harmonic language that would have represented the cutting-edge of musical style had it been written 60 years later. When one visitor during its composition remarked that the music lacked perfect cadences, the composer replied: “That's because there's no form in anything yet." Archangel Raphael, followed by the chorus, moves the narrative towards the sublime moment of the invention of light, a colossal C major chord for full orchestra and chorus that imposes musical order on the preceding tortuous chromaticism and whispered lines. Following this musical “big bang", the narrative moves with confidence into the orderly creation of the world.
A pattern begins to emerge in which the text's three sources are associated with particular kinds of music, forming a rising curve of expressive intensity within each new day. The first chapter of Genesis provides the days' essential text, announced in recitative by one of the archangels (typically beginning “And God said"), while selected passages, mainly based on the imagery in Milton's Paradise Lost, supply the material for extended descriptive passages, usually sung in accompanied recitatives and/or arias. Finally, verses from the Psalms are used for the uplifting, celebratory choruses at the end of each day.
In his vocal music Haydn shows a consistent fondness, far more than either Mozart or Beethoven, for evoking visual scenes and imagery in sound. The Creation offered him a context in which the pictorial was a persistent and governing element, and one in which he could demonstrate the full range of his musical imagination. In Part One, following the stunning choral announcement of the invention of light, it is the archangels who are entrusted with describing natural phenomena: Raphael conjures up pictures of a storm (making a clear distinction between rain, hail and snow), the division of the land from the sea, and the gentle progress of a brook; Gabriel's rich coloratura perfectly suggests the teeming growth of the plant kingdom; and Uriel gives a vivid portrayal of the three sources of light - sun, moon and stars. In recitative accompanied by the orchestra, the instrumental depiction of these images always precedes the elucidation given by the singer. Experiencing the emotion before articulating it is standard practice in such recitatives, but in this work it is particularly appropriate: each phenomenon is created by God and then labelled by man.
PART TWO encompasses the fifth and sixth days of creation, during which God created the animal kingdom and man. In a perfect match of vocal technique to image, Gabriel describes the eagle, the lark, the dove and the nightingale in turn. Here Haydn takes what could be a standard Baroque “bird-call" aria and vastly expands it to incorporate a huge range of orchestral colour, almost equal to his demands on vocal dexterity. The miracle of procreation is appropriately announced by Raphael, accompanied by an orchestra of divided violas, divided cellos and double basses. The following trio and chorus rounds off the fifth day by recapitulating descriptions of the beauties created, and placing them in situ.
With the commencement of the sixth day, Raphael, in a delightful accompanied recitative, describes the creation of the lion, the tiger, the stag, the horse, cattle, sheep, insects and, not least, the worm. In the following aria, “Now heaven in fullest glory shines", the archangel contemplates the newly formed world, noting the heavy tread of beasts (sudden fortissimo entry of bassoon, double bassoon and trombones in the orchestra, one of Haydn's many marvellous moments of descriptive humour) before looking forward to the final element in God's design, humankind.
It is Uriel who describes the creation of man and woman. The contrast between male and female music is clear, but once both have been created Haydn cleverly separates the texture of his aria into two layers, voice and cello line, representing the presence of two beings. In fact, from the very beginning of the aria there has been a propensity for the bass line to answer the top line, a spare rib in the musical texture that later becomes Eve.
Each of the previous days had ended with a chorus of praise, with Haydn taking care to reserve the biggest climax for the end of Part One. The Creation had been inspired by Handel and, as Haydn revealed to an early biographer, by his choruses rather than his arias: “Handel was great in choruses but mediocre in song". Haydn was too individual a composer to resort to pastiche Handel in the choral movements, but the general energy and athleticism of the writing owes a good deal to the older master. It is in these choruses of praise and thanks that Haydn's unquestioning religious belief comes most obviously to the fore. He himself said of the period in which he composed the oratorio: “I was never so devout as during the time that I was working on The Creation. Every day I fell to my knees and prayed to God to grant me the strength for a happy completion of this work."
The fervour of this experience is communicated in the chorus that ends Part Two, “Achieved is the glorious work". The first section is followed by a trio for the three archangels, emphasizing God's love for humanity at large but also disclosing the potential terror that awaits man should he fall from grace. The choral music resumes and turns into an intricate fugue. While Handel would have probably detached the final word “Alleluia" and made of it a chorus in its own right, Haydn integrates it into the increasing excitement of the movement.
PART THREE is an extended evocation of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Most of the text is taken from Milton with the Psalms again providing the words for the periodic outbursts of praise and thanks. This part of the oratorio presented Haydn with another challenge as it lacks the array of vivid incidents that characterizes Parts One and Two: nothing much happens in Paradise.
The first of two clear stages in this portion of The Creation consists of the opening recitative and the ensuing large-scale number for Adam and Eve with chorus, initially called “Hymn", which evokes the mystery as well as the beauty of Paradise and confirms man's primary purpose within Creation as that of praising God. Up to this point in the work the energy and impact of the full choral and orchestral forces have generally been manifested in a forte dynamic. Haydn now does the opposite: for the repeated, almost incantatory phrase “so great and wonderful", he makes use of virtually his entire vocal and choral forces in a soft dynamic.
The second stage of Part Three begins with another recitative for Adam and Eve. Gradually the couple become more recognizably human as they sing what is undoubtedly Haydn's greatest love duet, “Graceful consort". The structure and style of the music is that of an operatic duet: Adam and Eve have become Papageno and Papagena. The danger of original sin is voiced in the final recitative by Uriel, almost as a warning, but it is with this vision of sublime human happiness that Haydn leaves the listener when the chorus once again, for the last time, urges mankind to celebrate God's work: “Praise the Lord, uplift your voices!"
Few works in the whole literature of music are as uplifting, overwhelming, charming or comforting as The Creation. Completed two years before the end of the 18th century, the oratorio has none of the questioning doubt that was to darken artistic expression in the following century. Yet there is a striking paradox here. At the very time it was receiving successful performances all over Europe, the continent was continually at war, accommodating, curbing and finally defeating Napoleonic ambitions. When Buonaparte invaded Vienna for the second time in May 1809, Haydn was in the last weeks of his life. A French army captain named Clement Sulemy called on him and sang, to the composer's great pleasure, “Mit Würd' und Hoheit angethan"/“In native worth and honour clad", the aria that recounts the creation of man and woman. Here was one person, amongst many, who could appreciate the transcendent beauty of Haydn's vision amidst the brutality of war.