Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra
Louis Langrée, Music Director and Conductor
Sarah Tynan, Soprano
Thomas Cooley, Tenor
John Relyea, Bass
Concert Chorale of New York
James Bagwell, Conductor
Haydn’s The Creation (1796-98)
At Avery Fisher Hall
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
August 21, 2015
Joseph Haydn (1732-1809): The Creation, Hob. XXI:2
(Read about Haydn’s The Creation).
Previously, I knew little of Haydn’s Creation, and, in the brief time span, prior to the concert, the fine-printed, three-page, pedantic, historical blurb, by a scholarly researcher on the genre, was no help. As an educator, I am very knowledgeable about the value of user-friendly introductions, and tonight, with an efficient, intermission-less concert ahead of the audience, it would have been worthwhile for Conductor, Louis Langrée, to introduce the event, especially in view of the fact that two of the three operatic soloists were substitutes. At the very least, the Playbill program notes should have had three bold paragraphs (not three packed pages), written with captivating text, that informed the audience of the nature and history of this work. Instead, we had the dry, encyclopedic “Note on the Program”, peppered with Enlightenment philosophy references. In addition, with an obviously loyal audience, as the orchestra section and lower tiers were substantially full, an encore or two would have been an expected gesture, especially at the finale of an annual summer series.
Yet, in spite of these administrative mishaps, the Mostly Mozart Orchestra, Concert Chorale of New York, and three, opera soloists presented The Creation with distinction. Thanks to Maestro Langrée’s ebullient, dynamic conducting style, and obvious chemistry with his musicians and audience, the concert was thoroughly transporting and resounding. Haydn, in two 1790’s visits to England, heard Oratorios by Handel, from earlier in the 18th Century, and hoped to create one of his own. Johann Peter Salomon, a sponsor of Haydn’s performances in England, gave Haydn a 50 year-old libretto, originally created for Handel, called “The Creation of the World”. Haydn gave this libretto to Baron Gottfried van Swieten, who reconfigured the libretto and also transcribed it into the German version, Die Schöpfung. The oratorio is performed in both English and German, and I would like to hear it again in the German translation. (Assisted by Wikipedia), as tonight’s performance was in English.
Parts I, II, and III include passages for the orchestra, with and without the three soloists and chorale. Part I presents the Creation of the planets and universe, Part II presents the Creation of animals, man, and woman, and Part III presents Adam and Eve in Paradise. Part I opens with a horn flourish (my high-seat, second tier viewpoint, directly over the orchestra, was superb, with full view of musicians [percussion blocked], singers, conductor, chorale, harpsichord, and full hall). Soon we hear soft strings and oboes. Swirling notes end on strong beats, well controlled by the Maestro. This is supposed to be the representation of chaos, in the formation of the earth. Raphael (John Relyea, bass), an angel, powerfully sings, “In the beginning God created the heav’n and the earth…”. And, the Chorale lushly follows with, “Let there be light.” Uriel (Thomas Cooley, tenor), the second angel, a substitute performer in the program, like Mr. Relyea, was also well chosen, with vibrancy of tone, poise, and dramatic effects to his text. Uriel sings, “…and God divided the Light from the darkness”. The third angel, Gabriel (Sarah Tynan, soprano), originally scheduled to perform, was the most compelling of the three soloists, with astounding operatic quality, as she opens with “And God said: Let the earth bring forth grass…”. It should be noted that the program’s English libretto was formatted for ease of following along with the text. During Part I, I noted joyous, vivacious passages for the Chorale, “Awake the harp, the lyre awake!”, and three turns of “The heavens are telling…”.
Part II includes Gabriel’s mimicking the dove, in “cooing calls the tender dove his mate”, with bassoons representing doves, and with Ms. Tynan’s gorgeous trills and fully rounded notes. Raphael sings a recitative with Principal Cellist, Ilya Finkelshteyn, who played numerous cello enhancements and featured solos in this splendid work. Another noteworthy musician was Jon Manasse, Principal Clarinetist, who added a solo, with two bassoons and oboe (Principal Oboist, Randall Ellis), to the Chorale’s rendition of “In lofty strains let us rejoice!”. Gabriel and Uriel then sing a resilient duet, before Raphael, followed by the trio of soloists, “Revived earth unfolds new force…”. Part II concludes with a triumphant, ethereal, rhythmically soaring celebration, that ends with “alleluia”. Uriel introduces Part III, with Mr. Cooley’s clear, vivid tones, before Adam (Mr. Relyea) and Eve (Ms. Tynan) begin singing of bliss, “This world, so great, so wonderful…”. Toward the conclusion of The Creation, the Chorale found its finest, showcased moments in its passage that opens with “Hail, bounteous Lord! Almighty, hail!” The Chorale’s notes rise higher and higher, enhanced with brass and drums. When Adam sings, cello and harpsichord (Principal, Renee Louprette) maximize the musical magnetism. The Creation’s finale has everyone standing, Chorale, three soloists, and one extra (thanks to my viewing vantage), ending on “Amen”. Maestro Langrée truly brought mastery and personality to this concert in humble generosity of spirit. He spotlighted each section or solo musician and Chorale, after the three soloists took bows, and, finally, basked in his own vocal accolades. Kudos to Maestro Langrée, kudos to Maestro Bagwell, and kudos to all.