Boston Baroque - Haydn Creation -

The brilliance and beauty of Haydn's 1798 oratorio, The Creation (Die Schöpfung) come through most clearly when the work is performed on period instruments by an ensemble of appropriate size that is well-versed in the style in which this monumental hour-and-a-half work was written.  Actually, the "appropriate size" issue is the least significant one, since The Creation was played at the time Haydn wrote it by orchestras with widely differing numbers of players.  But using the correct instruments, playing in the correct style, and ornamenting the arias with understanding and musicality - these are real keys to the success of the work.  Boston Baroque, under Martin Pearlman, holds all those keys and knows how to use them to unlock the manifest beauties of the score: the group's performance is outstanding.  The Creation was written to a German text, but an English one was provided in Haydn's time and is sometimes used; the booklet with the Boston Baroque performance includes both texts, but the actual singing is done in German - which is more appropriate and fits the musical lines better.  And the lines themselves are wonderfully brought out by the 40-person orchestra.  Haydn's tone painting in The Creation is sometimes dismissed as naïve, other times deemed a highly effective handling of the words.  Pearlman clearly finds it very admirable, and brings out, with care, everything from the amazing portrayal of chaos that opens the oratorio to the sounds representing specific elements of creation (from the brilliant C major chord for "light" to the sequences tone-painting individual animals) to the unusual (for Haydn's time) inclusion of trombones and contrabassoon within the ensemble.  Lovely, melodic, carefully shaped and nicely ornamented singing by Amanda Forsythe, Keith Jameson, Kevin Deas and the 25-member chorus fits beautifully and fully idiomatically within the sound world that Haydn created, resulting in a mixture of fervor and beauty that makes the rather ordinary text shine through, again and again, with style and grace.  Hearing this performance transports the listener back in time to an age when Haydn's music was fresh, new and exciting, providing a chance to hear The Creation with all the joy and wonder that Haydn so successfully packed into it.

02 August 2012