Notes and Editorial Reviews
Roger Norrington, cond; Christiane Oelze (sop); Scot Weir (ten); Peter Lika (bs); CO of Europe; Berlin RCCh
PROFIL 7074 (2 CDs: 97:19
Text and Translation) Live: Berlin 3/1990
Roger Norrington’s latest legacy of performances issued by Profil continues apace with this 1990 production of Haydn’s
Unlike some of his Mozart performances, which suffered from occasionally dry, claustrophobic sound, the airier
acoustics of the famed Berlin Philharmonie are perfect for this traversal of Haydn’s popular oratorio.
My own relationship with this music has normally been one of like-vs.-indifference rather than love-hate. Individual numbers have always appealed to me; I like the form-out-of-chaos orchestral opening; but in previous recordings, I felt the overall impact of the work to be an alternation of highs and lows. Perhaps I should have heard a performance like this one first, because Norrington knits the disparate elements of the score brilliantly, as Colin Davis did with Berlioz’s
Romeo et Juliette
and Rudolf Kempe did with Wagner’s
, other works I previously felt were comprised of hit-and-miss sections.
It helps that Norrington had a good trio of singers to work with, not necessarily the most glamorous of voices, yet still individual in timbre, technically secure, and attentive to text. All three have had extensive experience in Lieder as well as oratorio, and all three have the requisite fluidity for the runs and trills peppered through the score.
Lika is undoubtedly the most interesting of the three insofar as he has had considerable experience singing modern music in addition to Baroque and Classical. His voice has much of the same dark quality one heard in Gustav Neidlinger, though not as large in size and more fluent technically. Weir is a tenor who studied with—among others—three famed baritones, Gerhard Hüsch, Gérard Souzay, and Renato Capecchi. He very obviously picked up their love of vocal color and sensitivity of expression, while having a voice of more modest dimensions. Oelze’s distinctive high soprano has graced many a Mozart recording, including John Eliot Gardiner’s complete performance of
The Berlin Philharmonie’s spaciousness assists the basically lean tone of Norrington’s orchestra and allows the chorus to create maximum impact in their gradations of volume, from the softest whisper to the fortissimo explosion of “Es werde Licht!” Yet this is not a performance notable only for isolated moments; its finely etched detail is complemented by the shapeliness of the musical flow. Even Haydn’s rustic bumptiousness acquires a more integrated flow within the overall structure, delighting the listener with moments of humanity amid the reverence.
Perhaps one reason I enjoy
despite its occasional inconsistency, is that—as the liner notes so aptly put it—it is “religious but not liturgical.” Haydn prayed on his knees daily when writing it, and was apparently rewarded occasionally with direct inspiration for his efforts, but its finest moments are when he is most himself. In effect, this is his own “creation,” the distillation of what made Haydn Haydn. It speaks directly to us, with art but without artifice. I love this performance, and think you will, too, no matter how many other versions you have. Norrington recognizes the humanity in the piece, and gives us a direct pipeline to it.
FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley Read less
Works on This Recording
The Creation, H 21 no 2 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Scott Weir (Tenor),
Peter Lika (Bass),
Christiane Oelze (Soprano)
Berlin Radio Chamber Choir,
Chamber Orchestra of Europe
Written: 1796-1798; Vienna, Austria
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