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Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Die Schöpfung (The Creation) Hob. XXI:2 - Oratorio for solo voices, chorus and orchestra (1765)
Malin Hartelius (soprano)
Lothar Odinius (tenor)
Anton Scharinger (bass)
Reinhart Vogel (fortepiano)
Chorgemeinschaft Neubeuern
Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Saarbrücken/Enoch zu Guttenberg
rec. Saarländischer Rundfunk Saarbrücken, 1998 (exact date and location not given)
FARAO CLASSICS B108025 [38:00 + 65:06]
Experience Classicsonline

Recorded in 1998, this release seems to have made little impact in a fairly well stocked market place for Haydn’s choral masterpiece Die Schöpfung. Enoch zu Guttenberg took on the Chorgemeinschaft Neubeuern in 1967 and turned what was then a small group of amateur singers into a first-rate ensemble. Within only a few years, Guttenberg led his choir to international recognition with multiple tours of Europe and South America. The Chorgemeinschaft has been awarded a number of prizes and has given repeated and successful guest performances at Europe’s major musical venues. Guttenberg served as First Guest Conductor of the MDR Orchestra for several years and has led such orchestras as the Bayerisches Staatsorchester, the NDR Symphony, the Saarbrücken Radio Symphony, the Nouvel Orchestre Philharmonique de Paris and other international ensembles.
I was pleasantly surprised to find this recording is something of a sleeper. The recording, a co-production with Radio Saarbrücken is rich and full, set in a nice acoustic, and with excellent balance between a marvellous choir, a crack orchestra, and a strong set of soloists. Performed with a modern orchestra, the approach nonetheless applies ‘historically informed’ restraint in the use of vibrato, especially with the strings. Recitatives are accompanied with fortepiano like many other more deliberately authentic versions. Tempi are good, with timings closely comparable with, for instance, Nikolaus Harnoncourt on his live 2003 recording with Concentus Musicus Wien on Deutsche Harmonia Mundi – the one with the appallingly cheesy ‘creation planner’ cover design.
As I have said, the soloists are almost entirely strong. Soprano Malin Hartelius has a gorgeous voice and deserves a mention. The bass Reinhart Vogel is also excellent, though his attempts at characterisation very occasionally lead to mannered sounding vagueness. He’s very good when singing conventionally, but sounds a wee bit forced when cutting out the vibrato, and the very lowest register could have some more power to be perfect in this piece. I was disappointed that his range didn’t allow for a witty downward turn on ‘das Gewürm’ at the end of disc 2 track 8, although the rasping brass for the lion’s roar is a marvellous touch, and Vogel sings with grand authority on the whole.
I have played in the orchestra for this piece on a number of occasions, and the flute part has to be one of every player’s favourites. The winds of the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Saarbrücken are very good indeed, and Haydn’s wonderful novelty moments are well executed, like the bassoon fart on ‘Den Boden drükt der Tiere Last’. The important timpani are well captured although are not as crisp as they might have been, though this is a detail of taste – informed by years of exposure to period performances and recordings.
The reference I have been using has been mostly that of Nikolaus Harnoncourt, which is a bit like comparing chalk with cheese – Harnoncourt of course goes full out for the period interpretation, and while highly dramatic, eschews effects beyond those notated in the score.
The budget Naxos version with Andreas Spering comes highly recommended, and most recently there is that Archiv recording with Paul McCreesh which has to be a challenge to all comers. Robert Shaw on Telarc has to be another strong contender for a modern orchestra recording. Presentation with this Farao release is very good, with full texts in German and English and useful notes. In my humble opinion, this recording with Enoch zu Guttenberg can stand among the best. If the conductor had been a Sir Simon Rattle or a Von Karajan we would no doubt all have been going ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ over the thing for ages, but as it is you could probably drop it into a blind listening test, keep everyone guessing and have your secret safe until distributing the answers at the end.
Dominy Clements


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