Notes and Editorial Reviews
If one believes an anecdote from the early 1790s, it was with his oratorio Die Schöpfung (The Creation) that Haydn, in the autumn of his years, hoped to perpetuate his fame for posterity — even though he was already the most celebrated composer in Europe. Not surprisingly, the work’s first public performance in 1799 was a huge triumph and the work was immediately repeated twice. Five years after his much acclaimed version of Die Jahreszeiten (The Seasons), René Jacobs offers a new, defi nitive version of this masterpiece as his major contribution to the celebration of the bicentenary of Haydn’s death.
“Mr. Jacobs, more than anyone else I’ve heard, blows away the prim domesticity of our classical music world, and
shows us past centuries as they really might have been.” -- The Wall Street Journal
A New York Times Record of the Year for 2009
"An invigorating jolt of the kind Mr. Jacobs and his period-instrument forces from Freiburg specialize in."
"The sharp crack of an
drumbeat kicks off the most eagerly awaited recording of the Haydn year (it is still 2009 as I write). Jacobs’
28:3) demolished all competition, and we have waited five years for the other shoe to drop. The Freiburg period-instrument ensemble divides the strings 7/6/4/3/3 (double basses), and the chorus is 11/8/9/8—all just the right size for this masterpiece, balancing subtlety with power.
is the most modern piece Jacobs has recorded (although written later,
has more of the Baroque than the strictly classical
), so there is appropriately less ornamentation to the vocal lines here. Jacobs, originally a singer, is a noted vocal teacher and coach; his soloists are always excellent, as are the chorus and orchestra. In short, this is a gripping, rewarding, thrilling
, blessed with fine, well-balanced recorded sound.
The competition among recordings of
is stronger than it was for
, however. My preference among period-performance recordings has been that led by Thomas Hengelbrock on Deutsche Harmonia Mundi (
27:3). The two recordings are amazingly similar, but differences begin to stand out after a few hearings. Choral and orchestral contributions are virtually indistinguishable, although Jacobs’ slightly larger forces have a small edge at the climactic choral/orchestral moments. Jacobs’ fortepiano continuo is more active than Hengelbrock’s, often contributing extra little flourishes before recitatives. Kleiter’s soprano is surprisingly operatic and not always on pitch; I much prefer Harmonia Mundi’s Simone Kermes, for her sweeter tone and more subtle singing. Hengelbrock’s Raphael, Johannes Mannov, is even cleaner and more solid than Weisser. My overall impression is that Jacobs is looking back to the Baroque, whereas Henglebrock is purely classical: fresh, alive, and looking forward. Either performance could stand as your one and only
. I am also partial to Neville Marriner’s Stuttgart recording on EMI, a modern-instrument performance with period sensibilities; it features the most angelic trio of all: Barbara Bonney, Hans Peter Blochwitz, and Jan-Hendrik Rootering. Jacobs’ soloists cover the roles of Adam and Eve, whereas the other two recordings employ separate singers. Hengelbrock’s pair are shy at first meeting, half whispering and half singing the opening stanza of their duet. It’s a lovely touch."
FANFARE: James H. North
Works on This Recording
The Creation, H 21 no 2 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Maximilian Schmitt (Tenor),
Julia Kleiter (Soprano),
Johannes Weisser (Baritone)
Berlin RIAS Chamber Chorus,
Freiburg Baroque Orchestra
Written: 1796-1798; Vienna, Austria
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