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 Recording of the Week  Stunning new Haydn Creation from Paul McCreesh

The Creation is quite possibly Haydn’s single greatest achievement. He wrote it towards the end of his life (between 1796 and 98), having spent the previous forty years gaining international popularity with his symphonies, quartets and keyboard sonatas. As the title suggests, Haydn’s oratorio depicts and celebrates the creation of the world as described in the biblical Book of Genesis.

Haydn’s inspiration for the work came from visits to England during the early 1790s where he had be blown away by the power of large-scale performances of Handel's Israel in Egypt, Messiah and his other choral works. It is also worth noting that, despite several attempts, Haydn never achieved any real international fame for any of his operas and so the Creation gave him a slightly different approach in which to display his talents of writing for singers.

Generally performed in German, there is some evidence to suggest that Haydn also had English in mind when he composed the work. However as the manuscript is lost it is unlikely we’ll ever know for sure. The first edition (published in 1800) had the English loosely printed above the German, but the text setting was poor and the grammar frequently garbled. What is certain though is that Haydn wished for the immediate impact that can only be achieved by performing a work in the audience’s own language. This can be seen by the fact that, within a few years of the premiere, versions had appeared not only in French and Italian but also in Czech, Hungarian, Russian and Swedish.

Paul McCreesh with the Gabrieli Consort and Players
Paul McCreesh with the Gabrieli Consort and Players

For his new recording out today with the Gabrieli Consort and Players, Paul McCreesh has revised the text to fit Haydn’s rhythms more closely and rewritten the recitatives “as Haydn might have done had he been more familiar with the English language”. The new disc features an orchestra of 113 players and a choir of nearly 100 and is quite simply stunning.

There can be few recordings that can sound so uplifting, overwhelming, charming or comforting as this. The soloists are all first class with Mark Padmore and Miah Persson particularly irresistible. You hear the majority of the text easily, with the accompanying booklet filling in any gaps. I really can’t recommend this highly enough and I fully expect it to go on and win several awards this year. DG have provided an E-Player for you to hear excepts (which can be accessed via the link below) but they’ve compressed the sound a bit too much so the result is a bit thin sounding, so I’ve put in the chorus which ends Day 3 as well which shows off the Handelian grandeur perfectly.

Haydn: The Creation (sung in English)

Ruth Massey, Paul Harvey, Mark Padmore, Miah Persson, Neal Davies & Sandrine Piau, Gabrieli Consort, Gabrieli Players & Chetham's Chamber Choir, Paul McCreesh

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC