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Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Die Schöpfung (The Creation) Hob. XXI:2 [101:17]
Camilla Tilling (soprano); Mark Padmore (tenor); Hanno Müller-Brachmann (bass-baritone)
Chorus and Orchestra of Bavarian Radio/Bernard Haitink
rec. Herkulesaal der Residenz, Munich, 2013
German text and English translation included
BR KLASSIK 900125 [37:46 + 63:32]

What might a cynical critic expect from a performance from a conductor in his eighties with a distinguished career but who is better known for the musical insight of his performances than for their physical excitement? Not what is found here, for sure. This is a performance full of energy, showing a clear awareness of historically informed performance practice, but also with an abundance of good humour and good sense.

Right from the start in the Representation of Chaos Haitink’s ability to clarify orchestral textures and to ensure that instrumental lines are phrased in a positive manner is apparent. Drama is at the forefront. Speeds may not be always quite as brisk as some find necessary but this is very much to the benefit of the music and in particular of Haydn’s many subtle details. The music is neither bullied nor loved to excess. Both orchestra and chorus excel. The soloists, although adequate, are not on the same level of achievement but are not a serious demerit of the set.

With a conductor of such experience and ability in balancing the orchestra the engineers’ task must be a pleasure, and certainly the results achieved here do justice to the performance. So too does the presentation, with a useful essay by Vera Bauer, the complete text and an English translation.
 
The Creation is one of the most life-affirming works in the repertoire, and one which has had many fine recordings in the past. This, however, is special even within that distinguished company. It manages to combine the virtues of old and new performance traditions and in capturing the essence of Haydn’s wonderfully humane creation. I have no hesitation in saying that this is by some way the most satisfying recorded performance of the work I have heard.
 
John Sheppard

Previous review: Michael Cookson