Notes and Editorial Reviews
This extraordinary recording of Haydn’s The Creation may just be Christopher Hogwood’s best release of anything. It will come as a shock to anyone who knows, and has been disappointed by, his anemic interpretations of the symphonies. Haydn intended The Creation to be performed by vast forces: all the winds, brass, and timpani doubled (at least), plus as many strings as he could find, as well as a very large choir. The published score, for practical reasons, represents the bare minimum necessary, and so it is usually done that way by period instrument groups, merely for reasons of cost. But as the great Donald Francis Tovey memorably said (and as I never tire of quoting), “Scholarship itself is not
obliged to insist on the restoration of conditions that ought never to have existed.” Puny performances of this music are a disgrace, plain and simple.
Well, here is one of the few period instrument performances to take this dictum to heart. Hogwood employs the forces that Haydn intended, and wonder of wonders, the result is not just brilliant, but in timbal terms amazingly close to what this music sounds like played on modern instruments, with a just a few concessions to period practice. For example, the sublime explosion at “and there was LIGHT” is the most vivid since Karajan’s first version, and in the accompanied recitative that immediately follows the strings have the richness and bite of a typical large ensemble. The result, then, has all of the grandeur that Haydn intended, and really does offer the best of both new and old–the clarity and incisiveness of historically informed performance alongside the power and brilliance of a contemporary orchestra.
Hogwood uses Haydn’s alternative English version of the libretto, which only confirms the music’s Handelian credentials. The soloists are excellent: the always sweet and pure Emma Kirkby as the angel Gabriel and, later, Eve; Anthony Rolfe Johnson turning in a terrific “In Native Worth” as Uriel; and Michael George a rich-toned Raphael/Adam. He’s particularly enjoyable in Part Two when he describes, along with Haydn’s wonderfully literal orchestration, those “heavy beasts” treading the ground. Add clean, focused choral singing and the result is a Creation of virtually unparalleled freshness and modernity. This inexpensive Decca reissue lacks the deluxe box and booklet of the L’Oiseau-Lyre original, but it still contains a multilingual booklet with decent notes and the complete (English only) text. A landmark.
-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
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