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Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Die Schöpfung, HobXXI/2 (1796-8)
Arleen Auger (soprano) - Gabriel; Peter Schreier (tenor) - Uriel; Walter Berry (bass) - Raphael; Gabriela Sima (soprano) - Eva; Roland Hermann (baritone) - Adam
Arnold Schoenberg Choir; Collegium Aureum/Gustav Kühn
rec. live, Great Hall, Alte Universität, Vienna, 31 March 1982
LPCM Stereo. 4:3 NTSC DVD
Also includes a documentary, Joseph Haydn and The Creation by Franz Kabelka [17:53].


The wonderfully atmospheric Great Hall of the Old University in Vienna was the setting for this fascinating performance of Haydn's masterpiece. The three principals (the three Archangels) are star names and deservedly so. The conductor, Gustav Kühn, made a big splash in the UK with a series of EMI releases before disappearing for a while. His Ring cycle on Arte Nova is patchy, but I was very impressed by his DVD Entführung, which became a Disc of the Month in October 2005. 

The picture itself is possibly a tad grainy, but this seems hardly worth mentioning when one considers the standard of the performance. The use of natural horns and original instruments leads to a heart-felt and really quite raw 'Chaos'. Walter Berry's 'Im Anfange' is superbly authoritative, the hushed choral response expertly balanced. Berry, of all the soloists, has the greatest projection of narrative power; the story in his hands grips at every syllable. Schreier's response to the moment of Light ('Und Gott sah das Licht …') can only be described as ringing. Such a commanding entrance leads to an aria from Schreier of the highest musicianship ('Nun scheanden vor dem heiligen Strahle'). Schreier is, in fact, magnificent throughout: try the recitative at the opening of the Third Part, 'Aus Rosenwolken bricht', and hear how he can float his tone. 

It is almost impossible to differentiate between the soloists in terms of pure quality. Arleen Auger, as angelic of voice as I am sure is her archangelic character, Gabriel, is a joy in her aria, 'Nun beut die Flur'. The way she floats her highest register is phenomenal. 

The music moves straight from Part 1 to Part 2, where Auger delights yet again with 'Auf starkem Fittosche schweiget sich der Adler'. Orchestral shadings lead one to believe the orchestral members, too, are in her thrall. And it is in this part that we have evidence, if evidence were needed, that the soloists gel perfectly: 'In holder Anmut steh'n' is a thing of wonder. In keeping with the prevailing standard, Adam and Eve are carefully matched and fully live up to the expectations created. Their long duet - 'Holde Gattin!', at over eight minutes - is tender, a perfect foil for the bright and blazing final chorus. The choir sings with great élan, particularly in the great 'Die Himmel erzählen der Liebe Gottes', with superbly balanced solo contributions. A pity the acoustic lends some blurring to proceedings here. 

This is one of the finest Creations I have heard. Camera-work is solid and dependable, if not overly imaginative – but that gives us the opportunity to concentrate on the musical goings-on. Franz Kabelka's short documentary is delivered in German - with subtitles available, of course. Kabelka is also the Director for TV and Video of the present release. The documentary comprises stills and photos of relevant material as visual backdrop to the narration. Nice to hear the Kaiser Hymn played on a keyboard, I guess. The most useful contribution it made to my knowledge bank was to mention a version of Schöpfung for string quartet by the now sidelined composer Paul Wranitsky;  you may find some of his wind music symphonies if you look hard enough. If this version of Schöpfung has been recorded, I for one would love to hear it! 

Colin Clarke



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