Haydn: The Creation / Hengelbrock, Kermes

Release Date: 4/13/2010
Label: RCA
Catalog Number: DHM77537
Number of Discs: 2

Physical Format:

Low Stock
Notes and Editorial Reviews
An eminently stylish performance, filled with joy from the first ray of light to the final thanks to the Lord, ranking with the best of period-instrument Creations.

Is there any other work that so consistently inspires its performers as Haydn’s The Creation? One hears performances by amateurs that sparkle with truth, and every professional one seems glorious. This recording is studded with little-known performer names, but that is no handicap. This is a happy, cosy Creation, a conception that might raise some eyebrows; it triumphs because it is spectacularly well performed. Thomas Hengelbrock, music director of the Vienna Volksoper, created the Balthasar-Neumann Choir in 1991 and the Ensemble in 1995, choosing performers with whom he had already enjoyed working. Their repertoire stretches from Monteverdi to the 21st century, but they sound as if they were created just to play and sing Haydn’s masterpiece. The chorus is 8/7/7/6, strings are 6/5/4/4/2 (double basses). This strikes me as just the right size, enabling a balance of power with clarity. The deep, gutsy opening chord of “Chaos” leaves no doubt that the ensemble has enough punch; attacks are Toscanini-crisp, winds are brightly colored, climaxes thunder with clamorous trumpets and hard-struck drums. The chorus is superb.

Soprano Simone Kermes is quite wonderful, her soft, warm tones making Haydn’s high coloratura sound easy and natural, while never stepping out of character or resorting to exaggeration. Her pitch is secure and reliable, her phrasing delightful, her embellishments a joy. She immediately joins my short list of favorite sopranos. In my recall, only Barbara Bonney has sung such a superb Gabriel. Bass Johannes Mannov is in the same league, his ringing voice immensely appealing, his singing impeccable; a single shaky entrance keeps him from perfection. Tenor Steve Davislim is merely excellent. This trio of happy, relaxed seraphim is angelic indeed. Adam and Eve are also fine, if not quite so heavenly. A beautiful, subtly played fortepiano supports the recitatives.

In short, this is an eminently stylish performance, filled with joy from the first ray of light to the final thanks to the Lord. Tempos are never rushed, and the 99-minute total assures that nothing ever drags. The recording is exceptionally natural, sweet and focused during quiet moments and opening up nicely for the climaxes. This ranks with the best of period-instrument Creations.

-- James H. North, FANFARE [3/2004]
Works on This Recording
1. The Creation, H 21 no 2 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer: Dorothee Mields (Soprano), Locky Chung (Baritone), Simone Kermes (Soprano), Johannes Mannov (Bass), Steve Davislim (Tenor)
Period: Classical
Written: 1796-1798 ; Vienna, Austria
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