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Early Music

Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger

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Franz Josef HAYDN (1732-1809)
Die Schöpfung, HobXXI:2 (1798)
Max Emanuel Cencic (male soprano) Gabriel; Christian Bauer (tenor) Uriel; Ernst Jankowitsch (bass) Raphael, Adam; Gertraud Schmid (soprano)
Vienna Boys Choir; Chorus Viennensis
Symphonieorchester der Wiener Volksoper/Peter Marschik.
Live performance from the Musikvereinssaal, Vienna, on May 25th-26th, 1994.
Includes documentary 'The story of the Creation' (28:00)
Dolby Digital 5.1. NTSC. Colour. 4:3. Region Code: 0 (Worldwide).
CAPRICCIO 93 507 [104'00]


An interesting live performance. Maybe the most eyebrow-raising part of it is the use of a male soprano (note, not counter-tenor) in the form of Max Cencic. An ex-member of the Vienna Boys' Choir (1986-92), the booklet explains that, 'by reason of his unusual vocal technique (he) retained his soprano voice and adopted the rare career of a sopranist'. He certainly has the power in the higher reaches, coping well when pitted against choir and orchestra. Yet his vibrato is rather bleaty and can grate at times; personally I felt this as early as his Part One aria, 'Nun beut die Flur das frische Grün'. His lower jaw wobble becomes rather off-putting after a while - particularly his aria that opens Part 2, 'Auf starkem Fittiche schwinget sich der Adler stolz'. Yet he blends exceptionally well with his colleagues when there is an ensemble of soloists and he can negotiate semiquavers with superhuman ease.

The weakest of the soloists is perhaps the Raphael/Adam, the bass Ernst Jankowitsch. Age seems to have weakened his lower register, although in fairness not his musicality and his experience more than compensates for the few shortcomings. Christan Bauer (Uriel) is an excellent tenor while Eva (Gertraud Schmid) despite some messiness in runs, is precise and direct in expression.

The orchestra under Marschik enjoys Haydn's imaginative and sometimes quirky scoring, particularly the more earthy portions. I include the initial 'Representation of Chaos' in this. The chorus - boys’ voices on top of course - is excellently committed.

There is an accompanying feature, a 28-minute documentary that takes us through the Creation day by day. It is lavishly and often beautifully illustrated in its chosen biblical painting. Those new to this work could do worse than to watch this prior to the performance.

Of the performance, the booklet gives the date details above, but I should point out that the DVD claims this to be the performance on the 26th only - as part of the Wiener Festwochen. Subtitles are mostly fine, the occasional slip notwithstanding ('ravish d'earth' for example).

Recommended as a generally spirited account, but bear in mind the reservations above.

Colin Clarke

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