After finishing the oratorio version of his Seven Last Words of Our Saviour on the Cross in 1796, Haydn was ready: he took up work on the “Creation” and had finished the piece by 1798. Even during the rehearsals for the first performance on the 30th April in Vienna, which was exclusively for invited, noble guests, the musicians reported “ the delights of this musical work, so exceptional and never heard before [...], that news of it spread through the entire dity like wild fire and expectations swelled to bursting point”.
Around 150 participants played and sang under Haydn’s baton, including the singer Christine Gerardi - the only woman on stage - with her “light and youthful soprano voice, beautifully shaped, expressive phrases and especially her fiery eyes”, alongside Ignaz Saal “with velvet might” as Raphael and Matthias Rathmayer as Uriel. Both the audience and the music critics were captivated.
The Viennese correspondent of the “Neuen tetschen Merkurs” [New German Mercury] reported back ot Weimar that the music of the “Creation” had a “power of depiction which surpasses all imagination; one is swept up, sees the elements storm, sees it become light, the fallen spirits sink deep into the abyss; one trembles at the rolling thunder, joins in the jubilations of the heavenly host. The sun rises, the joyful praise of the birds rises to meet it; the green plants sprout from the earth, the cool stream tinkles silvery, and rising from the deeps, Leviathan sports in the foaming waves.”