On a day like this, I thought of this oratorio:
The Creation (German: Die Schöpfung) is an oratorio written between 1797 and 1798 by Joseph Haydn (Hob. XXI:2), and considered by many to be one of his masterpieces. The oratorio depicts and celebrates the creation of the world as described in the Book of Genesis.
The libretto was written by Gottfried van Swieten. The work is structured in three parts and scored for soprano, tenor and bass soloists, chorus and a symphonic orchestra. In parts I and II, depicting the creation, the soloists represent the archangels Raphael (bass), Uriel (tenor) and Gabriel (soprano). In part III, the bass and soprano represent Adam and Eve.
The first public performance was held in Vienna at the old Burgtheater on 19 March 1799. The oratorio was published with the text in German and English in 1800.
Haydn was inspired to write a large oratorio during his visits to England in 1791–1792 and 1794–1795, when he heard oratorios of George Frideric Handel performed by large forces. It is likely that Haydn wanted to try to achieve results of comparable weight, using the musical language of the mature classical style. Among the Handel works Haydn heard was Israel in Egypt, which includes various episodes of tone painting, perhaps an inspiration to Haydn’s own pervasive use of this device in The Creation.
The text of The Creation has a long history. The three sources are Genesis, the Biblical book of Psalms, and John Milton’s 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 four 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.
The Creation, notice for the first public performance at the Burgtheater on 19 March 1799:
When Haydn returned to Vienna, he turned this libretto over to Baron Gottfried van Swieten, who led a multifaceted career as diplomat, director of the Imperial Library, amateur musician, and patron of music. He had already collaborated with Haydn as librettist, editing the text for the oratorio version of The Seven Last Words of Christ, premiered in Vienna in 1796. Swieten recast 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.
For the quotations from the Bible, Swieten chose to adhere very closely to the English King James Version. According to Temperley, “the German text corresponds to no known German Bible translation. Instead, it is so constructed that the word order, syllabification, and stress patterns are as close as possible to the English. Haydn and Swieten must have realized that English audiences would not easily accept changes in the hallowed text of their Bible; and there were the formidable precedents of Messiah and Israel in Egypt to bear in mind.”
In the final form of the oratorio, the text is structured as recitative passages of the text of Genesis, often set to minimal accompaniment, interspersed with choral and solo passages setting Swieten’s original poetry to music. Swieten incorporated excerpts from Psalms for choral movements..
Van Swieten was evidently not a fully fluent speaker of English, and the metrically-matched English version of the libretto suffers from awkward phrasing that fails to fit idiomatic English text onto Haydn’s music. For example, one passage describing the freshly minted Adam’s forehead ended up, “The large and arched front sublime/of wisdom deep declares the seat”. Since publication, numerous attempts at improvement have been made, but many performances in English-speaking countries avoid the problem by performing in the original German. The discussion below quotes the German text as representing van Swieten’s best efforts, with fairly literal renderings of the German into English; for the full versions of both texts see the links at the end of this article.
The first performances in 1798 were mounted by the Gesellschaft der Associierten, a group of music-loving noblemen organized by van Swieten to sponsor concerts of serious music; the Gesellschaft 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.
Performance of The Creation in 1808 in the Festival Hall of the old University of Vienna/Austria:
The first performance the next day was a private affair, but hundreds of people crowded into the street around the old Schwarzenberg Palace at the New Market 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 old Covent Garden theatre, site of the English premiere in 1800. Engraving from 1808:
The first public performance at Vienna’s old Burgtheater at the Michaelerplatz 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 life. The work became a favourite of the Tonkünstlersocietät, a charitable organization for the support of widows and orphans of musicians, for which Haydn frequently conducted the work, often with very large ensembles, throughout the remainder of his career. The Creation had its London premiere in 1800, using its English text, at Covent Garden.
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 Haydn, in a typical gesture, weakly pointed upwards and said: “Not from me—everything comes from up there!”
The Creation was also performed more than forty times outside Vienna during his life: elsewhere in Austria and Germany, throughout England, and in Switzerland, Italy, Sweden, Spain, Russia and the United States. Despite the eclipse in Haydn’s reputation as a composer in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the work never left the repertoire during this time, and today it is frequently performed by both professional and amateur ensembles. There are many recordings
A typical performance lasts about one hour and 45 minutes. (wikipedia)
And here we hear this legenday composition by St. Matthew´s Choir & Concert Orchestra, Ealing/London.
And it´s such a such a moving and intimate recording …
Recorded live at the St. Matthews church, 20th March, 2010, Ealing/London
Adam Crockatt (Tenor; Uriel)
Clément Dionet (Baritone; Adam)
Aurélia Jonvaux (Soprano; Eve)
Antoine Salman (Bass; Raphael)
Joanna Marie Skillett (Sopran; Gabriel)
St. Mattew´s Choir & Concert Orchestra conducted by Phiroz Dalal
01 .Representation Of Chaos 2.38
02. In The Beginning 4.05
03. Now Vanish Before The Holy Beams 2.03
04. And God Made The Firmament 2.13
05. The Marvellous Work 0.50
06. And God Said, Let The Waters 4.52
07. Boiling In Foaming Billows 0.34
08. And God Said, Let The Earth 5.31
09. With Verdure Clad 0.14
10. And The Heavenly Host 2.22
11. Awake The Harp 0.47
12. And God Said, Let There Be Light 2.57
13. In Splendour Bright 4.26
14. The Heavens Are Telling 0.33
15. And God Said, Let The Waters 8.10
16. On Mighty Pens 1.57
17. And God Created Great Whales 0.25
18. And The Angels 4.48
19. Most Beautiful Appear 2.28
20. The Lord Is Great 3.43
21. Now Heaven In Fullest Glory Shone 0.43
22. And God Created Man 3.55
23. In Native Worth 0.32
24. And God Saw Everything That He Had Made 1.33
25. Achieved Is The Glorious Work 4.07
26. On Thee Each Living Soul Awakes 3.34
27. Achieved Is The Glorious Work 4.02
28. In Rosy Mantle Appears 10.11
29. By Thee With Bliss 2.49
30. Our Duty We Have Now Performed 0.43
31. O Happy Pair 3.45
32. Sing The Lord Ye Voices All