Franz Joseph Haydn
CAST: Sandrine Piau: Gabriel, Mark Padmore: Uriel, Neal Davies: Raphael, Peter Harvey: Adam, Miah Persson: Eve
Chetham’s Chamber Choir
Chorus Master: Martin Bussey
Gabrieli Consort & Players
Paul McCreesh, conductor
«I recognized at once that such an exalted subject would give Haydn the opportunity I had long desired, to show the whole compass of his profound accomplishments and to express the full power of his inexhaustible genius» wrote Baron Gottfried van Swieten about the masterpiece which, together with his instrumental works, had ensured the celebrity of Franz Joseph Haydn to the present days: Die Schöpfung (“the creation”).
Haydn became interested in this sacred genre during his visit to London in the early 1790s, when he had the occasion to listen to Handel’s choral works, and worked on his oratorio in his old age, during a period of eighteen months in 1796-1798. Die Schöpfung has the peculiarity to be the first oratorio to be published in two languages, German and English, by van Swieten in 1800. The wonderful recording of Die Schöpfung about which I am writing presents the English version, appropriately adapted by conductor Paul MacCreesh himself.
Paul McCreesh conducts the marvellous Gabrieli Consort & Players and Chetham’s Chamber Choir with enthusiasm and enviable taste. His direction is firm and unerring and makes this Schöpfung similar to a contemplation, the contemplation of Haydn’s light and fluent music. His support of the singers is perfect: the best passage is Gabriel’s aria With verdure clad the fields appear, where the orchestra follows the soprano with discretion and elegance.
It is Sandrine Piau who sings Gabriel. The French soprano’s angel has a silvery voice and has his heart in the music and she portrays him exactly as a gentle creature of the heavens. Her arias are graceful and make an amazing contrast with Neal Davies’s Raphael. The bass has a warm and expressive voice and it happens that his energy makes him resemble a fallen angel rather than one of the Archangels (but this is comprehensible and – even better – necessary since he sings about the «boisterous sea»), but he is also able to be delicate to the quietest passages. The last angel, Uriel, is sung by tenor Mark Padmore, who seems a little shy at the beginning, but he improves in the course of the oratorio and is appreciable for his beautiful vocal timbre and good technique, even if sometimes some signs of the previous unease reappear.
Miah Persson (Eve) and Peter Harvey (Adam) are two great ancestors, but the baritone remains in the shadows compared to the soprano. Persson is a refined singer with a beautiful and sweet voice and great temperament, while Harvey’s voice has a caressing sound.
It is difficult to find somewhere else the same unity and artistry of this Schöpfung, even if there are many excellent recording of it since it is Haydn’s most famous work alongside with the string quartets and the symphonies. This is indeed one of the best you can find.