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Joseph HAYDN (1732–1809)
Die Schöpfung (The Creation) (1796-98)
Malin Hartelius (soprano) – Gabriel; Eva; Lothar Odinius (tenor) – Uriel; Anton Scharinger (bass) – Raphael; Adam; Reinhart Vogel (fortepiano); Chorgemeinschaft Neubeuren; Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Saarbrücken/Enoch zu Guttenberg
rec.Saarländischer Rundfunk Saarbrücken, 1998
German text and English translation enclosed
FARAO CLASSICS B108025 [38:00 + 65:06]
Experience Classicsonline

Recordings of Die Schöpfung have been thick on the ground and the quality has been high so a clear-cut recommendation isn’t easy to give. It is possible to divide the recordings into two main groups: those played by a modern symphony orchestra and those which adhere to period performance practice. I have not heard all the existing recordings but in the former group I have for some time now had a special liking for James Levine’s DG recording with superb playing from the Berliner Philharmoniker and singing of extraordinary sensitivity and beauty from the Swedish Radio Chorus. The soloists are no mean trio either: Kathleen Battle, Gösta Winbergh and Kurt Moll. From this one can conclude that this is a broad, majestic reading, firmly rooted in the romantic tradition. Tempos are only one indication but I need only mention that the introduction takes 13:01 while Ivor Bolton in his recent live recording for Oehms runs through it in 8:10. His is a period performance and very good too with Miah Persson’s superb Gabriel/Eva his trump card among the soloists. The slightly older Naxos recording under Andreas Spering is, however, even finer with fresh playing and singing from a rather smaller group and with more evenly matched soloists. I made it one of my Recordings of the Year and others have also taken it to their hearts.
 
Enoch zu Guttenberg has divided opinions for his sometimes wilful readings, the chorus and orchestra do not exactly have star-billing and the soloists are at best half-known, so how can he compete with the plethora of celebrities on other labels? First of all his approach is neither romantically overblown nor strictly ‘early-music-puritanical’ – he stands so to speak with one foot in each camp. He has a modern symphony orchestra but they have adopted some of the features of the period bands and play with a minimum of vibrato. He works with dynamic contrasts – and very effectively too, and his speeds are mainly moderate. He is slower than Spering and Bolton, who are very close to each other, but in several cases only marginally so, while he is, principally speaking, faster than Levine. What is more important than differences in tempo is the playing and singing per se, and here he is a top contender. He doesn’t break new ground in either direction but within a kind of middle-of-the-road concept his reading is alive and engaged with excellent contributions from the chorus and orchestra, whom he knows well and have a special rapport with. The Corgemeinschaft Neubeuren was in fact founded by Enoch zu Guttenberg in 1967. There is precision and power in the dramatic choruses and soft lyricism in the idyllic pieces.
 
He has also a splendid trio of soloists. Swedish born Malin Hartelius has a light and attractive voice and she sings with understanding and naturalness. Her reading of Auf starkem Fittige is superb. Lothar Odinius is eager and stylish and his soft singing is beautiful. Like the others he sings off the words. Occasionally though he seems to sing slightly flat. Really imposing is Anton Scharinger, whose timbre sometimes is similar to Hermann Prey but has the warmth of my old favourite in this part, Heinz Rehfuss on an almost fifty-year-old Concert Hall recording. He may be too monumental at times but he is also utterly delicate with scaled down nuanced pianissimos. His accompanied recitative after Gabriel’s Auf starkem Fittige in the fifth day is really superb (CD 2 tr. 3).
 
On all counts then this is a recommendable recording with splendid sound and a booklet with the sung texts and translation – not to be taken for granted these days. The aforementioned recordings will not be displaced by this newcomer – recorded presumably ten years ago though no dates are given in the booklet – and especially Spering still holds his position, but there is so much to admire and be carried away by the Guttenberg’s recording that even jaded collectors should try it. Newcomers to this fascinating work need not hesitate.
 
Göran Forsling

see also review by Dominy Clements

 

 


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