Boston Baroque - Haydn Creation - Jewish Daily Forward
23 August 2012Jewish Daily Forward
Marion Lignana Rosenberg
And Haydn Said, 'Let There Be Light'
"On the Sublime"
is a treatise from early in the Common Era by an unknown author,
conventionally styled Longinus. Some scholars suspect that Longinus was a
Hellenized Jew because he or she paraphrased Genesis, praising Moses
for telling of Divinity's power "in the opening words of his ‘Laws':
‘God said' - what? - ‘let there be light, and there was light: let there
be land, and there was.'"
One of the great instances of the sublime in music
centers on the very verses echoed by Longinus: the prelude and opening
number of Joseph Haydn's oratorio "The Creation" (1796-98). With dreary
dissonances, uneasy wind figures and hollow, long-delayed cadences, the
composer depicts the void and darkness of chaos. The archangel Raphael
and a whispering chorus quietly narrate the creation of heavens and
But at the moment when light shines forth, the music
explodes in C major splendor. Brass fanfares sound, strings throw off
their mutes and unveil their full glory, and the chorus roars in joy. As
wrought by Haydn, the birth of light takes about 15 seconds, but its
impact is shattering. (Bewilderment, Longinus wrote, is a mark of the
sublime.) At The Creation's Vienna premiere, stunned listeners
interrupted the performance for several long moments after this passage.
A superb new recording of "The Creation" - more precisely, "Die Schöpfung"
- has been released on the audiophile Linn label by Boston Baroque
under Martin Pearlman. An unknown librettist drew on the Bible and John
Milton's "Paradise Lost" for the original English-language text, but
Haydn composed to a German translation that is widely preferred and used
for the Linn set.
Given the recording's clean and spacious sound, chaos
and the emergence of light are especially striking, but the performance
abounds in smaller-scale beauties, as well. Pearlman brings a serene
lilt to the trio "In holder Ammut stehn," celebrating the
beauties of the earth, the skies, and the seas, graced with dark,
swirling strings for the mysteries of the deep.
There and elsewhere, the singing of soprano Amanda Forsythe
is pure delight. Her tone is crystalline, her intonation faultless, her
enunciation pellucid - and, best of all, she is a lovely musician and a
searching artist. I can't imagine anyone bettering her "Nun beut die Flur," with its jubilant trills and tricky, expertly handled intervals, or her blissful way with Eve's "Der Blumen Duft" in the second duet with Adam.
Haydn wrote some of his most vivid passages for the
lowest of the three solo voices, and bass-baritone Kevin Deas digs
deeply into all of them. He evokes Leviathan with his richest, most
incredulous tone and in the great recitative about the beasts of the
earth conjures up with the proud lion, lithe tiger and prancing stag.
(How beautifully, too, the instrumentalists plays Haydn's delectable
pastoral music for the cattle and flocks.)
Tenor Keith Jameson gives voice with quiet dignity to
some of the most momentous portions of "The Creation": none more so than
the description of dawn in Eden, in which Haydn's orchestration, as
played by Boston Baroque, truly makes us believe that the world is dewy
and new. The Baroque's choristers sing splendidly throughout, most of
all in their awestruck interjections during Adam and Eve's first duet.
There are outstanding recordings of "The Creation" led by Nikolaus Harnoncourt, René Jacobs
and others. This new set by Boston Baroque under Martin Pearlman can
take its place among the very best, rising in sound and spirit to the
heights of Haydn's sublime music.
Related LinksBoston BaroqueHaydn: The Creation