- Die Schöpfung (The Creation), oratorio, H. 21/2
Haydn had both German and English texts of the libretto before him when he wrote "The Creation." (The original, anonymous libretto was in English; Gottfried van Swieten translated it into German and then retranslated it back into English.) It was this retranslation (which was in fact full of inaccuracies and grammatical errors) that Handel used in creating alternate text settings when the two languages couldn't be musically reconciled. Consequently, and rightly, the English version has been considered inferior and is rarely used. Haydn was adamant, though, that "The Creation" should be sung in the language of its listeners, and approved translations into a number of languages. Confronted with an inaccurate, unpoetic text and some awkward text setting, conductor Paul McCreesh set about to create a new English translation that fit the composer's musical syntax. His version is graceful and elegant, and sounds completely natural -- it could easily become the standard English version. The original productions of "The Creation" involved an orchestra and chorus that were unusually large for the time, and McCreesh duplicates whose forces in this recording. Haydn was careful about designating solo and tutti passages for the orchestra, so he had a broad palette on which to write -- from the intimate sounds of chamber music to a massed orchestra with triple winds. The Gabrieli Players, using period instruments, sounds marvelous, and create genuinely gigantic effects when required to, as in the creation of light on the first day. The Gabrieli Consort is joined by Chetham's Chamber Choir, creating a choral sound with real heft, but that also can be delicate when necessary. The soloists are of variable quality. Soprano Sandrine Piau is radiant as Gabriel. As Adam and Eve, baritone Peter Harvey and soprano Miah Persson are fresh and youthful sounding, and they blend beautifully. Tenor Mark Padmore and bass Neal Davies have voices more typical of English oratorio soloists: somewhat mannered, with wide vibrato. Overall, though, this is a very strong "Creation," especially because of the full and colorful orchestral and choral sound, and the fine new translation.