Sunday, April 3, 2011

Joseph Haydn - Die Schopfung (The Creation) – Rafael Kubelik, Bavarian RSO







The work Haydn intended as his masterpiece caused a sensation when it was first performed, before a packed aristocratic audience, in Vienna's Palais Schwarzenburg in April 1798. But it was not until the following year, with anticipation at fever-pitch, that the wider Viennese public were able to hear Die Schopfung for themselves. The performance, in the Imperial Burgtheater on March 19, was on a grand scale, with some 120 instrumentalists (including tripled woodwind parts) complemented by an all-male choir of around 80, placed in front of the orchestra. Voice-fanciers were also eager to hear the debut of the talented and eyecatching 17-year-old soprano Therese Saal.

Rafael Kubelik The event capped even Haydn's London triumphs. Within a few years the oratorio was being performed throughout the German-speaking lands, in Britain and in France. The music's effortless fusion of melodic charm, pictorialism and elemental grandeur made an instant appeal to Kenner — connoisseurs — and Liebhaber — amateurs — alike. With its idyllic picture of a benign, rationally ordered universe, Die SchOpfung was perfectly in accord with Enlightenment thinking, as yet unsullied by Romantic angst. Its theology, minimising evil and guilt (unlike in Milton's Paradise Lost, a prime influence on the libretto, the Fall is touched on only incidentally), also chimed with the composer's own personal faith — 'not of the gloomy, always suffering sort, but rather cheerful and reconciled', as an early biographer put it.

Rafael Kubelik conducted his beloved Chorus and Orchestra of the Bavarian Radio in this performance of Haydn's The Creation (sung in German) in June of 1984. The interpretation, the orchestral playing, and the singing, both solo and choral, cannot be faulted. The recording engineers, however, can, for not having better caught the precise singing of the chorus: the sound is full and rich but not very clear. On the other hand, the sound of the orchestra reveals the exquisite details Haydn included in this late masterpiece. The soloists are well matched and like Kubelik show in this performance, that they love the score and have lived into it.

Performer:  Margaret Marshall (Soprano), Lucia Popp (Soprano), Vinson Cole (Tenor), Bernd Weikl (Baritone), Gwynne Howell (Bass)
Conductor:  Rafael Kubelik
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra,  Bavarian Radio Chorus


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