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Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Die Schöpfung (The Creation) HOBXXI:2 (1795-8) [97:19]
Christiane Oelze (soprano); Scot Weir (tenor); Peter Lika (bass)
RIAS Kammerchor; Chamber Orchestra of Europe/Sir Roger Norrington
rec. live, Kammermusiksaal der Philharmonie, Berlin, March 1990.
text (German) and translation (English) included
HÄNSSLER PROFIL PH07074 [68:27 + 28:52]
Experience Classicsonline

A good performance of "The Creation" can be a uniquely exhilarating experience. Haydn was clearly inspired by the subject, and depicts the newly created world with wonder, affection and joy. We also sense that Haydn was aware that not all in the world is perfect but must nonetheless be accepted. This is a very good performance indeed that gets right to the heart of Haydn’s inspiration whilst avoiding any hint of the kind of self-consciousness or portentousness that, for me at least, has ruined performances by starrier conductors and singers.

The opening Representation of Chaos is often played very slowly and mysteriously which can be effective but perhaps misses the point. Chaos is depicted not in the individual notes or bars but in the lack of any direction to the music or coherent context for those notes or bars; paradoxically the faster it goes the more obvious it becomes that we are literally going nowhere. I was gripped throughout this movement in this performance. Everything, even the strange wind and string chords that nearly but do not quite coincide, for once made perfect sense in context. The playing of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe here and throughout is superb - well phrased and balanced. Fortunately the soloists and choir are on a similar level, even if at times I would welcome more individuality from the former.

It would be unfair to underestimate the contributions of any of the performers, but I suspect that it is the influence of Sir Roger Norrington which raises what would have been likely to be a good performance anyway to one which constantly brings home to the listener the sheer breadth and humanity of Haydn’s conception. Although this is not a "period" performance, the lessons of such performances are apparent in the transparency of the textures, the dancing rhythms and the sparing vibrato. Immense care has clearly gone into the detail of the performance – nothing is generalized, everything is specific. It was recorded live, although the audience only make themselves known in the applause at the end, and there are no obvious lapses which might become irritating on repetition. The performance can best be described as being in every way lively – a celebration of life in the widest sense, wholly at one with the enormity of the subject of the oratorio. The recording is clear and believable and the presentation worthy of it, although personally I prefer the text and translation on the same pages.

John Sheppard


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