- Die Schöpfung (The Creation), oratorio, H. 21/2
Tenor Fritz Wunderlich had one of the sweetest and loveliest tenor voices captured on disc. Sadly, he died in a bizarre household accident at the age of 36, in the midst of making this recording of Haydn's oratario The Creation. Wunderlich had recorded all of the arias, so the remaining recitatives were taken over by Werner Krenn. Even "incomplete," this performance is a fitting tribute to Wunderlich's extraordinary talent. All of the soloists are in peak form, and the choir, the Wiener Singverein, sings with power and assurance. Herbert von Karajan conveys the grandeur and infinite tenderness of Haydn's magnificent score, drawing ravishing sounds from the Berlin Philharmonic, and painting the orchestral introduction -- a musical depiction of chaos -- with brushstrokes worthy of a Michelangelo.
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Joseph Haydn - one of the most respected composers in Europe - wrote the Creation between 1796 and 1798. This Oratorio fetes and describes the creation of the Universe as presented in the biblical Book of the Genesis, i.e. The first book of the Old Testament that tells of The Creation, Adam and Eve, the Fall of Man, Cain and Abel, Noah and the Flood, God's covenant with Abraham, Abraham and Isaac, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers
Haydn went to England where it is widely believed London supplied him with the inspiration to write a large oratorio. During that period (1791-1792 and 1794-1795) Haydn, almost sixty, heard oratorios of George Frideric Handel (b. 1685, d.1759) that was done with immense effect. Israel in Egypt is, perhaps one of these. Probably Haydn wanted to achieve results of comparable weight as Handel's, using the musical language of the perfected classical style.
Apart from Handel's effect, I want to briefly dwell on Mozart's charm in this great composition.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Joseph Haydn were close friends despite some twenty four years difference in age.
It may have been Mozart who convinced Haydn, in 1784, to join Freemasonry. However there is no evidence that Haydn ever attended a meeting after the one at which he was admitted, and in 1787 he was dropped out from the register of the lodge.
Yet, in the company of Mozart, Haydn would throw off the usual reserve he displayed on public occasions and behave like Mozart's father which he remained in one corner of his personality all his life. Mozart used to call him `Papa', indicative enough of the respect and strong affiliation each had for one another.
Haydn, still in London, received the news of Mozart's death and was deeply agitated by the shock; he wrote to their mutual friend Michael Puchberg, "for some time I was quite beside myself over his death, and could not believe that Providence should so quickly have called away an irreplaceable man into the next world." Haydn wrote to Mozart's widow (Constance) offering musical instruction to her son when he reached the appropriate age, and later followed through on his offer.
I can say that Mozart's premature death was highly shattering and its echo continued to reverberate in Haydn's artistic imagination. After all Haydn was spiritual, actively concerned with many religious and sacred matters associated with the church.
Therefore Haydn began his work on the oratorio in October 1796 and lasted until April 1798. To demonstrate his faith, he appended the end of every Page written with the words ""Praise to God" offered in homage as an act of worship of the composition thus written.
The God fearing Haydn mentioned that while composing, he felt "I was never as 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."
Like Haydn, Herbert von Karajan was also one of the most respected (albeit envied) conductors in Europe throughout the twentieth century. Seventy minutes of superfluous music, arias and choruses, Karajan's interpretation goes in line with the authenticated manuscript published in Vienna in 1803, annotated by Haydn. Actually, the Creation was published bilingually - English and German (1800) - and is still performed in both languages today. Haydn preferred the English text to be used for English-speaking spectators. Karajan preferred German.