Joseph Haydn – The Creation
Recorded at the Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin betwen February 1966 and April 1969.
About this work:
The Creation (German: Die Schöpfung) is an oratorio written between 1796 and 1798 by Joseph Haydn (H. 21/2), and considered by many to be his masterpiece. The oratorio depicts and celebrates the creation of the world as described in the biblical Book of Genesis. Haydn was inspired to write a large oratorio during his visits to England in 1791–1792 and 1794–1795, when he heard oratorios of Handel performed by large forces. Israel in Egypt is believed to have been one of these. It is likely that Haydn wanted to try to achieve results of comparable weight, using the musical language of the mature classical style. The work on the oratorio lasted from October 1796 to April 1798. It was also a profound act of faith for this deeply religious man, who appended the words “Praise to God” at the end of every completed composition. He later remarked, “I was never so devout as when I was at work on The Creation; I fell on my knees each day and begged God to give me the strength to finish the work.” Haydn composed much of the work while at his residence in the Mariahilf suburb of Vienna, which is now the Haydnhaus. It was the longest time he had ever spent on a single composition. Explaining this, he wrote, “I spent much time over it because I expect it to last for a long time.” In fact, he worked on the project to the point of exhaustion, and collapsed into a period of illness after conducting its premiere performance. Haydn’s original autograph score has been lost since 1803. A Viennese published score dated 1800 forms the basis of most performances today. The ‘most authentic’ Tonkünstler-Societat score of 1799, with notes in the composer’s hand, can be found at the Vienna State Library. There are various other copyist scores such as the Estate, as well as hybrid editions prepared by scholars during the last two centuries. The text of The Creation has a long history. The three sources are Genesis, the Biblical book of Psalms, and John Milton’s Genesis epic Paradise Lost. In 1795, when Haydn was leaving England, the impresario Johann Peter Salomon (1745–1815) who had arranged his concerts there handed him a new poem entitled The Creation of the World. This original had been offered to Handel, but the old master had not worked on it, as its wordiness meant that it would have been 4 hours in length when set to music. The libretto was probably passed on to Salomon by Thomas Linley Sr. (1733–1795), a Drury Lane oratorio concert director. Linley (sometimes called Lidley or Liddel) himself could have written this original English libretto, but scholarship by Edward Olleson, A. Peter Brown (who prepared a particularly fine “authentic” score) and H. C. Robbins Landon, tells us that the original writer remains anonymous. When Haydn returned to Vienna, he turned this libretto over to Baron van Swieten. The Baron led a multifaceted career as a diplomat, librarian in charge of the imperial library, amateur musician, and generous patron of music and the arts. He is largely responsible for recasting the English libretto of The Creation in a German translation (Die Schöpfung) that Haydn could use to compose. He also made suggestions to Haydn regarding the setting of individual numbers. The work was published bilingually (1800) and is still performed in both languages today. Haydn himself preferred for the English translation to be used when the work was performed for English-speaking audiences. Van Swieten was evidently not a fully fluent speaker of English, and the metrically-matched English version of the libretto has given rise to criticism and various attempts at improvement. Indeed, the English version is sufficiently awkward that the work is sometimes performed in German even in English-speaking countries. One passage describing the freshly-minted Adam’s forehead ended up, “The large and arched front sublime/of wisdom deep declares the seat”. The discussion below quotes the German text as representing van Swieten’s best efforts, with fairly literal renderings of the German into English.
The Creation is set for three vocal soloists (soprano, tenor, and bass), four-part chorus (soprano, alto, tenor, bass), and a large Classical orchestra consisting of 3 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani, and the usual string sections of first and second violins, violas, cellos, and double basses. For the recitatives a harpsichord or fortepiano is also used. There seems little doubt that Haydn wanted a big sound (by the standard of his day) for his work. Between the private premieres for nobles and the public premiere in 1799, Haydn added extra instrumental parts to the work. The forces for the public premiere numbered about 120 instrumentalists and 60 singers. The three soloists represent angels who narrate and comment on the successive six days of creation: Gabriel (soprano), Uriel (tenor), and Raphael (bass). In Part III, the role of Adam is usually sung by the same soloist as sings Raphael, and the roles of Gabriel and Eve are also taken by the same singer (this was the practice Haydn followed); however, some conductors prefer to cast each of the five roles with a different soloist. The choral singers are employed in a series of monumental choruses, several of them celebrating the end of one particular day of creation. The orchestra often plays alone, notably in the episodes of “tone-painting”: the appearance of the sun, the creation of various beasts, and above all in the overture, the famous depiction of the Chaos before the creation.
The first performances in 1798 were sponsored by a group of noble citizens, who paid the composer handsomely for the right to stage the premiere (Salomon briefly threatened to sue, on grounds that the English libretto had been translated illegally). The performance was delayed until late April—the parts were not finished until Good Friday—but the completed work was rehearsed before a full audience on April 29. The first public performance the next day was a private affair, but hundreds of people crowded into the street around the Schwarzenberg Palace to hear this eagerly anticipated work. Admission was by invitation only. Those invited included wealthy patrons of the arts, high government officials, prominent composers and musicians, and a sprinkling of the nobility of several countries; the common folk, who would have to wait for later occasions to hear the new work, so crowded the streets near the palace that some 30 special police were needed to keep order. Many of those lucky enough to be inside wrote glowing accounts of the piece. In a letter to the Neue teutsche Merkur, one audience member wrote: “Already three days have passed since that happy evening, and it still sounds in my ears and heart, and my breast is constricted by many emotions even thinking of it.” The first public performance at Vienna’s Burgtheater on 19 March 1799 was sold out far in advance, and Die Schöpfung was performed nearly forty more times in the city during Haydn’s lifetime. It had its London premiere the next year, in an English translation, at the Covent Garden Theatre. The last performance Haydn attended was on March 27 1808, just a year before he died: the aged and ill Haydn was carried in with great honour on an armchair. According to one account, the audience broke into spontaneous applause at the coming of “light” and “Papa” Haydn, in a typical gesture weakly pointed upwards and said: “Not from me—everything comes from up there!”. Remarkably, The Creation was also performed more than forty times outside Vienna during his lifetime: elsewhere in Austria and Germany, throughout England, and in Switzerland, Italy, Sweden, Spain, Russia and the United States. A typical performance lasts about one hour and 45 minutes.
01. The First Day: Einleitung. Die Vorstellung des Chaos (Largo) (7:05)
02. The First Day: Im Anfange schuf Gott Himmel und Erde… (2:58)
03. The First Day: Nun schwanden vor dem heiligen Strahle (4:01)
04. The Second Day: Und Gott machte das Firmament (1:50)
05. The Second Day: Mit Staunen sieht das Wunderwerk… (2:00)
06. The Third Day: Und Gott sprach: Es sammle sich das Wasser (0:45)
07. The Third Day: Rollend in schäumenden Wellen (4:12)
08. The Third Day: Und Gott sprach: Es bringe die Erde Gras hervor (0:37)
09. The Third Day: Nun beut die Flur das frische Grün (5:34)
10. The Third Day: Und die himmlischen Heerscharen… (0:14)
11. The Third Day: Stimmt an die Saiten (1:58)
12. The Fourth Day: Und Gott sprach: Es sei’n Lichter… (0:41)
13. The Fourth Day: In vollem Glanze steiget jetzt (2:55)
14. The Fourth Day: Die Himmel erzählen die Ehre Gottes (4:09)
15. The Fifth Day: Und Gott sprach: Es bringe das Wasser in der Fülle hervor (0:22)
16. The Fifth Day: Auf starkem Fittiche schwinget… (7:38)
17. The Fifth Day: Und Gott schuf groBe Walfische (2:39)
18. The Fifth Day: Und die Engel rührten ihr’… (0:27)
19. The Fifth Day: In holder Ammut stehen/Der Herr ist groB in seiner Macht (7:39)
01. The Sixth Day: Und Gott sprach: Es bringe die Erde hervor lebende Geschöpfe (0:30)
02. The Sixth Day: Gleich öffnet sich der Erde Schoss (3:01)
03. The Sixth Day: Nun scheint in vollem Glanze der Himmel (3:45)
04. The Sixth Day: und Gott schuf den Menschen (0:48)
05. The Sixth Day: Mit Würd’ und Hoheit angetan (3:58)
06. The Sixth Day: Und Gott sah jedes Ding (0:27)
07. The Sixth Day: “Vollendet ist das grosse Werk” / “Zu Dir, o Herr, blickt alles auf” / “Vollendet ist das groBe Werk” (9:13)
08. Aus Rosenwolken bricht (4:51)
09. Von deiner Güt’, o Herr und Gott (10:00)
10. Nun ist die erste Pflicht erfültt (2:50)
11. Holde Gattin, dir zur Seite (7:04)
12. O glückliches Paar, und glücklich immerfort (0:27)
13. Singt dem Herren alle Stimmen! (4:02)
Stereo, ADD, mp3, 320 kbps, 253.76 Mb, 1 hours 48 minutes. Covers & info included.