Die Schöpfung

Haydn: Die Schöpfung
 Il Giardino Armonico, Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks
Giovanni Antonini
Outhere/Alpha 567
. 2CDs. 72’52 +27’26

The Joseph Haydn Foundation’s Haydn 2032 project plans to produce and finance the recording of all 107 of Haydn’s symphonies in the lead-up to the 300th anniversary of Haydn’s birth. These recordings are usually with Il Giardino Armonico and the Basel Chamber Orchestra under Giovanni Antonini, but this recording of The Creation, which sidesteps the symphony series, pairs the period instruments of Il Giardino Armonico with the Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks. Although I have some reservations, it is a powerful and revealing account of Hadyn’s extraordinary work, a homage to the Handel oratorios that he experienced in London.

The first reservation is that, rather naughtily, the CD makes no mention of it being a live recording. Indeed, in giving the recording dates as 8 to 11 May 2019 it suggests that it isn’t. But some extraneous noise from the audience gives the game away. It’s a poor show, really, not to be honest about this in the first place. And it also raises the question of why producing the final version took 4 days – that is rather a lot of patching to bring a live recording upto CD quality.

The key point of interest is the use of period instruments, absolutely essential in this piece because of the specifid instrumental colours that Haydn uses, the effect of which is entirely lost with a modern instrument orchestra. Giovanni Antonini relishes the colours of the instruments, and Hadyn’s masterful conjuring up of orchestral colour. The opening sequence, depicting Chaos, is one of the best I have heard, with superb control of dynamics and pace. The players of Il Giardino Armonico are on top form throughout.

The Choir of the Bayerischen Rundfunks sound impressive, never completely overpowering the orchestra but still exhibiting the power of the more rumbustuous choruses. The soloists are Anna Lucia Richter (soprano), Maximilian Schmitt (tenor) and Florian Boesch (baritone), the latter two being particularly effective. I did have concerns about the soprano soloist which first became apparent in Mit Staunen sieht das Wunderwerk and were later reinforced in the aria Nun beut die Flur das frische Grün. The recording favours her voice above the other soloists, the orchestra and chorus making it sound rather shrill on occasions, and exposing occasional slight intonation concerns. Later appearencessome revealled troubling and uncontrolled vibrato, further affecting intonation issues.

With that reservation, this is a recording worth comparing to the many others available. A brief promotional video clip can be viewed here. It gives away the live concert basis for the recording.