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Thursday, December 10, 2015

Haydn, The Creation, Harry Christophers, Handel and Haydn Society, Soloists

Joseph Haydn had been dead only six years when the Handel and Haydn Society formed (1815) in Boston. They first performed part one of Haydn's monumental oratorio The Creation on Christmas of that year. As part of their Bicentennial season this year Harry Christophers and the Society performed the work live. It is this live version that we happily have on a new two-CD set (CORO 6135).

It is the English version we hear, based on Genesis and Milton's Paradise Lost. Both English and German versions were published under Haydn's supervision in 1800. As Harry Christophers comments in the liner notes, Haydn "excels himself allowing soloists, chorus and period orchestra to revel in vivid word painting both vocal and instrumental." Christophers and the amassed choral and orchestral forces of the Handel and Haydn Society give us an exaltedly expressive performance that is in the period tradition and near ideal in its elated depth of expression.

This is arguably Haydn's finest work for voices and orchestra, inspired by the Handel of the "Messiah" for its grand sweep and melodic genius. Haydn remains himself yet engages the then not-so-old tradition with a Haydn-esque brilliance.

Soloists Sarah Tynan, Jeremy Ovenden and Matthew Brook, the choral and orchestral forces give us superlative performances. The joy of creation comes through with the precision and period perfection we come to expect from Christophers.

This is a disk set that provides us with the balance and musical thrust of the work as Haydn envisioned it. Like the Christopher/Handel Haydn recording of the Messiah last year (see the search box above to find my review) it is in the period tradition, not overblown with too large an orchestra or chorus (which was the practice last century) and more brio than sentimental, just right for our time and Haydn's. It is one of those triumphs that makes it essential listening. Happy 200th to the Handel and Haydn Society!

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