Die Schöpfung (1992)

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28 February 2006 | standardmetal
| A good recording among several
Haydn's Oratorio, Die Schöpfung (The Creation, 1798) was the first of the two late major oratorios, the second being Die Jahreszeiten. (The Seasons, 1801.) These were both to texts of Baron Gottfried van Sweiten (a musical amateur who providentially helped to introduce Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven to the music of J.S. Bach and G.F. Handel, among others.) loosely based respectively on Milton and Thompson. Both of these librettos are not first-rate, especially the second which led to something of a falling-out between Haydn and van Sweiten.

This DVD was recorded in 1992 and according to a review on Amazon.com, the performance was filmed in the Jesuit Church in Lucerne, Switzerland but this information is not given on the DVD. Also not given are any translations either in the form of captions or libretto.

Haydn was a devout Catholic though a Freemason like Mozart and the text is, of course, ultimately based on the Old Testament. Archaeology as a science was still in its infancy as was anthropology so the text is still totally "fundamentalist".

Musically, the oratorio consists of 3 soloists, only briefly expanded to 4 for the final chorus by the addition of an alto (here unidentified.) who sings only a few notes and is usually picked, as here, from the chorus. The soloists double as both the archangel Gabriel and Eve (soprano), Raphael and Adam (bass) and the tenor is Uriel.

The chorus usually is praising God in some kind of counterpoint and the double influences of Handel and J.S. Bach are very apparent.

Among the soloists, the standout is the bass René Pape, with Edith Mathis a close second and the tenor Christophe Pregardien is good also if somewhat "lower than the other angels".

The conducting by Peter Schreier (himself a well-known tenor) is very fine, the camera work and sound are serviceable but I wonder why the close-ups of Pape show not only his five o'clock shadow but his dental work as well. And Mathis' flowered dress is also rather unnecessarily eye-filling.

A fine performance among many on a DVD without extras, libretto or subtitles.

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