Thursday, 4 November 2010

Creating the Creation - René Jacobs

Joseph Haydn
Die Schoepfung (The Creation)
Julia Kleiter - soprano
Maximilian Schmitt - tenor
Johannes Weisser - bass
RIAS Chamber Choir
Freiburg Baroque Orchestra
cond: René Jacobs
2xCD harmonia mundi
Release Date: 19th October 2009

‘There is the book; begin at the beginning.’ If one believes an anecdote from the early 1790s, it was with the account of the Creation that Haydn, in the autumn of his years, hoped to perpetuate his fame for posterity. Yet he was already the most celebrated composer in Europe, and the work’s first public performance in 1799 was such a triumph that it was immediately repeated twice.

Five years after a much acclaimed version of The Seasons, René Jacobs chooses this ‘beginning’ to make his major contribution on record to the celebration of the bicentenary of Haydn’s death. To our delight, he brings into the light a brilliant and young cast, and treats us to a colourful, vibrant creation!

Creating the Creation - Part I/III

The Creation was played to honour Joseph Haydn at his 76th birthday at the Old University Hall in Vienna on March 27, 1808. Joseph Haydn was there, in what turned out to be his last public appearance; Antonio Salieri was conducting, Beethoven kissed his hands, the audience was enthusiastic! In the front, sitting on a chair in the middle, wearing a hat: Joseph Haydn. – Watercolor by Balthasar Wigand, who was also there.
Creating the Creation - Part II/III

It was on a visit to London in 1791 that Haydn heard several of Handel's oratorios at Westminster Abbey. Astonished by their size and power - "Handel is master of us all," he is said to have declared - he determined to write a similar work himself. Die Schöpfung was the result, though its exuberant hymning of the simple joys of life is pure Haydn

Creating the Creation - Part III/III

Joseph Haydn
Die Jahreszeiten (The Seasons)
Marlis Petersen - soprano
Werner Güra - tenor
Dietrich Henschel - baritone
RIAS Chamber Choir
Freiburg Baroque Orchestra
cond: René Jacobs
2xCD harmonia mundi
Release Date: 2004

The Seasons was Haydn's follow-up to his successful The Creation. In four parts, each musically depicting a season, it is a two-hour vocal work that praises God and nature and orchestrally imitates croaking frogs and lambs that gambol. It could easily seem slightly out of kilter with the times in which we live, but its proto-ecological message has perhaps never been more relevant, its sublimely fresh and vernal musical language a painful reminder of lost environmental innocence.

And this recording of the piece is notably successful in communicating that message. Beautifully conducted by René Jacobs, it offers elasticity of rhythm and a bright alfresco atmosphere. The three soloists have just the right plenitude of tone and timbre (as in Summer, their mellifluous hymn to the sun) while the RIAS Kammerchor's singing combines technical precision with a striking ease of utterance (the closing chorus of Spring is typical of their outstanding contribution).

This is a fresh and articulate Seasons for an era that most definitely needs it.

The Creation: download links
The Seasons: download links

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