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Haydn: The Creation / Harper, Tear, Shirley-Quirk, Willcocks, King's College Choir, Cambridge

Release Date: 01/23/2007 
Label:  Emi Classics For Pleasure Catalog #: 75929   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer:  John Shirley-QuirkHeather HarperJames LancelotRobert Tear,   ... 
Conductor:  Sir David Willcocks
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Academy of St. Martin in the FieldsEnglish Chamber OrchestraCambridge King's College Choir
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 35 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

HAYDN The Creation. 1 Insanae et vanae curae. 2 Mass No. 10 in C, “Mass in Time of War” 3 David Willcocks, cond; Heather Harper (sop); 1,3 Pamela Bowden (alt); 3 Robert Tear (ten); 1 Alexander Young (ten); 3 Read more class="ARIAL12"> John Shirley-Quirk (bs); 1,3 English CO; King’s College Ch, Cambridge EMI 75929 (2 CDs: 154:30 & 2 )

This 1972 Creation is sung in Vincent Novello’s cleaned-up version of Baron Gottfried van Swieten’s original, inconsistent English. Although the work was originally published in both languages (cagey old Haydn!), we are now accustomed to hearing only the German. The soloists enunciate cleanly, and the superb King’s College Choir does almost as well, allowing us to appreciate every word of the text. Following along with a German-only score, it is apparent that van Swieten’s German translation is almost word for word. Some passages do sound odd, but this is a great story, and many moments are almost unbearably moving, even for this non-believer, because the soloists sing with enormous conviction. Tear is a force as Uriel; so are Harper and Shirley-Quirk in their heavenly personae; their Adam and Eve are more, well, earthbound. Conductor Willcocks, too, emphasizes the dramatic, as he did in his stunning performance of the “Lord Nelson” Mass, one of the all-time great recordings—of anything.

But, but, but: it all seems so old fashioned to today’s period ears. Tempos are glacial; it took God at least nine days to create this world. Orchestra and chorus are quite large, although Willcocks makes sure the winds remain at the fore: when there is light, it is a megawatt blaze. The recorded sound is gorgeous, both because of and despite the acoustic of King’s College Chapel, which provides not only long, rich reverberation but multiple echoes—even of the harpsichord continuo. The soloists must have been closely miked to maintain their admirable clarity.

One doesn’t really weigh the pros and cons; either a performance grabs you or it doesn’t. This one does. I won’t abandon Thomas Hengelbrock’s superb period recording on Deutsche Harmonia Mundi ( Fanfare 27:4), but only the staunchest period zealot will be able to resist Willcocks’s Creation.

Insanae et vanae curae is a seven-minute chorus from Haydn’s first great oratorio, Il ritorno di Tobia , set to a new text for use in church; even H. C. Robbins Landon doesn’t know whether the revision was done by the composer. Hearing this fine performance reminds me to beg Decca once again to issue Dorati’s resplendent 1979 Tobias (London OSA-1445, three LPs) before CDs go out of style.

Willcocks speeds things up for the “Mass in Time of War,” and is suitably military in the Agnus Dei, but some passages are positively jaunty, which does not suit this anguished work. The solo quartet is extraordinary, individually and in ensemble; Bowden is that rarity in Haydn mass recordings, a solid, secure alto. Nevertheless, this performance remains a series of fine effects rather than an effective whole, which has been achieved in many recordings, from the ancient Wöldike to today’s period performances by the usual suspects: Gardiner, Harnoncourt, Hickox. This being a low-priced issue (EMI’s “Classics for Pleasure” series), there are no librettos for The Creation or for the Mass, but we are given Latin and English texts of the little-known Insanae et vanae curae . Good thinking!

FANFARE: James H. North
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Works on This Recording

The Creation, H 21 no 2 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer:  John Shirley-Quirk (Bass), Heather Harper (Soprano), James Lancelot (Harpsichord),
Robert Tear (Tenor)
Conductor:  Sir David Willcocks
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields
Period: Classical 
Written: 1796-1798; Vienna, Austria 
Insanae et vanae curae, B 8 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Conductor:  Sir David Willcocks
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra,  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1798; Vienna, Austria 
Missa in tempore belli, H 22 no 9 "Paukenmesse" by Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer:  James Blades (Timpani), Sir Andrew Davis (Organ), Pamela Bowden (Alto),
Alexander Young (Tenor), John Shirley-Quirk (Bass), Heather Harper (Soprano)
Conductor:  Sir David Willcocks
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra,  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: Classical 
Written: 1796; Vienna, Austria 

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