"Pearlman’s expert Boston players and vocalists—Deas; deft, ultra-charming Met tenor Keith Jameson; and springwater-clear soprano Amanda Forsythe, who aces her ravishing arias and scatters delightful trills—make this well-recorded set a delight." – David Shengold, Time Out New York
Some people just aren’t fans of the grandiose, temporally elongated, performer-heavy choral works that perennially seem to draw equally grand, populous audiences to the world’s large-scale concert venues. We (okay, I include myself in this group) just prefer choral music in which every voice actually counts (Brahms Requiem and Orff Carmina Burana excepted), and where (Messiah and St Matthew Passion excepted) you don’tRead more need an hour and a half to hear one piece. (My colleague, Dave Hurwitz, insists that my real problem in these cases is that there’s just too much excitement for me to handle. But I like the Byrd four-part Mass and Mozart’s Requiem—do they count?)
Truth be told, with Haydn’s unquestioned masterpiece The Creation, the issue is not its length or how big the orchestra is: rather, it’s the incessant obsession with musical scene- and word-painting, a nice trick that shows just how skilled and clever a composer can be—or how pedestrian, derivative, or mundane. And indeed, Haydn isn’t just clever at this: he’s a genius. He employs the orchestra’s ability to depict chaos or light or rain or lions and tigers and worms, or thunder in ways that no one before had ever conceived. You can listen to sections such as the famous opening “Representation of Chaos” and believe you are hearing Beethoven before Beethoven became Beethoven. Okay, fine.
A big question is, is this really an oratorio, or something else? In many places it seems more like an opera—and indeed, with just a little more imagination (especially on the librettist’s part) this could have been turned into a sort of Midsummer Night’s Dream-like theatrical piece, given the characters (adding a couple of comic-relief types) and possible scenarios. What more dramatically ripe atmosphere than the wild, newly formed world? What more magical setting than the Garden of Eden? But instead we get merely a magnificent, masterful display of orchestral eloquence, dramatic capabilities, and thematic invention and development, superb choral writing, and, although too numerous for my taste, reams of recitative, skilfully written and sometimes powerful and moving.
And Martin Pearlman, who’s been doing these sorts of productions with his period-instrument Boston Baroque for several decades, manages to capture the essential majesty and inherent expressive/dramatic character of the music and textual material with what many would consider relatively modest forces—less than Haydn’s largest configuration, but more than the composer utilized for other occasions. His secret weapon here—not his choral and orchestral musicians, who already are widely-, well-regarded experts in this repertoire—is the recording venue, the coveted acoustics of Mechanics Hall in Worcester, Massachusetts. You can hear everything, and all of it, from orchestral tuttis to solo/orchestral passages to sections with chorus, soloists, and orchestra, is clear and well-balanced.
My only reservation—this is a big work with lots of parts, and there’s bound to be something—concerns the soloists. They are confident and competent, no question. And bass-baritone Kevin Deas probably delivers the best portrayal of the creeping, sinuous worm on disc—that final low D-flat is amazing! But each of these soloists possesses a consistent and distracting vibrato (tenor Keith Jameson also has a kind of sinusial timbre)—too slow in the case of Deas and Jameson, too fast in the case of Forsythe. To my ears this sort of thing is noticeable but ultimately surmountable: after all these singers are very accomplished and technically/stylistically competent and informed. But it must be mentioned because some listeners will be a bit, temporarily, distracted, while others will wonder what the fuss is about. There’s no fuss—just one of those singer-preference things. You know what I mean.
Fans or newcomers to The Creation should be happy with this—forget whatever bias you may have toward period or modern interpretations. This orchestra conveys Haydn’s colorful score as well as any, and this chorus is second to none for its unbridled energy and uncommonly articulate delivery. Too much excitement? Go ahead, if you dare!
– David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com
I was disappointed in Boston Baroque’s recording of Cherubini’s C-Minor Requiem (Fanfare 30:5), but this Creation has, from its orchestral introduction, an essential rightness—of mood, sonority, drama, and tempo. As with Dinu Lipatti’s Schumann Concerto (the first time I experienced such a feeling), this is the way it should go. Martin Pearlman realizes the work’s character of being very serious yet radiantly joyful. His period orchestra (strings 6/5/4/4/2) has a full measure of both power and tenderness, without having to strain for either. The chorus (7/6/6/6) is magnificent; the opening of “Stimmt an die Saiten” (disc 1, track 11) is so electric that one wants to stand up and cheer. Pearlman’s vocal soloists are each superb, in voice and in delivery; their clean, never ostentatious ornamentations fit this particular work (the florid style of René Jacobs’s soloists is better suited to the more Baroque The Seasons), and they match beautifully in ensemble. The fortepiano continuo is always just right. Above all, the lofty spirit of the whole is thrilling.
The icing on the cake is Linn’s recorded sound, from Mechanics Hall in Worcester, Massachusetts, during October 2011. It is so realistic, so natural, that one might be sitting beside Beethoven at the premiere. Balances are ideal; the chorus is clearly spread from sopranos on the left to basses on the right, and every contrapuntal line comes through. This is Boston Baroque’s first recording for Linn, and it helps explain the vast improvement over its Cherubini. No doubt it is aided by listening on a system of all-Linn electronics (with KEF 104/2 speakers and/or Sennheiser HD 600 head phones). I blamed the Worcester Hall’s acoustics for the Cherubini’s problematic sound; either I was mistaken or Linn’s team, led by Thomas C. Moore of Five/Four Productions, Ltd., has worked miracles. SACD smoothes the sound, lessening the orchestra’s impact, but clarifies the choral lines even more; one has the sensation of almost hearing each individual voice, which is just as it should be. Surround sound restores any lost impact and throws the listener into the performance, a wondrous if slightly unreal effect.
Must there be something wrong? Okay, the side-by-side German/English libretto is in small white print on black pages, making one squint.
I haven’t been counting, but I’ll bet there have been 100 recordings of The Creation. This one stands comfortably at the pinnacle; among its close competitors, Thomas Hengelbrock on Deutsche Harmonia Mundi is sweeter but less dramatic, Neville Marriner’s incomparable EMI soloists steal the show in a modern-instrument performance. In more than six decades of listening, I have found that almost every new recording of any masterpiece brings more doubts, because every performance has characteristics that others lack. About once a decade have I found the recording, one that has everything: Willem Mengelberg’s (Telefunken) Franck D Minor, Otto Klemperer’s 1954 mono “Eroica,” David Willcocks’s “Lord Nelson” Mass, Klaus Tennstedt’s (pirate) live BSO Schubert Ninth, George Szell’s Schumann Second, Riccardo Chailly’s Gurrelieder, James Levine’s Prokofiev Fifth. Martin Pearlman’s Creation joins that list.
The Creation, H 21 no 2by Franz Joseph Haydn Performer:
Kevin Deas (Bass Baritone),
Keith Jameson (),
Amanda Forsythe ()
Period: Classical Written: 1796-1798; Vienna, Austria Length: 91 Minutes 6 Secs. Language: German
Featured Sound Samples
The Creation: Part I: Solo with Chorus: "Mit Staunen sieht das Wunderwerk"
Part I: Chorus: "Stimmt an die Saiten"
Part III: Duet with Chorus: "Von deiner Gut', o Herr und Gott"
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Good but not greatSeptember 27, 2012By S. Kowal (Boston,, MA)See All My Reviews"I felt the performance was dominated by the solo parts over the chorus and orchestra to the point that it was hard to decifer the choral singing or to hear the particulars of the orchestra. Otherwise it was classic wonderful Martin Perarlman."Report Abuse