David Willcocks / King's College Choir of Cambridge

Haydn: The Creation; Missa in tempore belli

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The budget Classics for Pleasure line from Britain has reissued a growing variety of famous performances from the 1960s and early 1970s. Some haven't aged a bit; some offer sterling examples of how fashions change. And some fall in between those extremes. Made in 1974, this was a reference recording of Haydn's The Creation for many years, especially secure in that status among available English-language versions of the work. The soloists, English veterans of oratorio, were uniformly rich and imposing in sound, and soprano Heather Harper was glorious in the role of the Angel Gabriel. The Choir of King's College, Cambridge, under David Willcocks was a supple instrument, intonationally flawless. And yet historically oriented performers have brought new ways to hear this masterpiece of Haydn's old age. The score's pictorial effects in Willcocks' reading are muted, and the wealth of instrumental detail is audible only if you're specifically listening for it. The tympani effects in the Agnus Dei of the Missa in tempore belli (Mass in Time of War) that fills out the second disc are curiously lackluster; they ought to carry some of the shock they would have caused in an audience living in a city that was being bombed. The original booklet notes, from several fine Haydn scholars of the day, give a wealth of interesting information on the tortured history of the English-language version of The Creation, but the listener hoping to follow along will be frustrated; no texts are given, and the words of the choir are only intermittently intelligible. This was once state-of-the-art Haydn, and it still offers many details to admire even as other choices have come along. The inclusion of the stormy little cantata Insanae et vanae curae is a plus, as is the budget price for which Harper's arias alone provide justification of the expenditure.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Die Schöpfung (The Creation), oratorio, H. 21/2
1
5:53
2
2:49
3
3:44
4
2:02
5
2:14
6
0:57
7
4:06
8
0:34
9
5:36
10
0:12
11
2:20
12
0:40
13
2:26
14
4:51
15
0:29
16
7:33
17
2:07
18
0:25
19
4:16
20
2:26
21
0:32
22
3:22
23
3:52
24
0:38
25
3:54
26
0:25
27
1:32
28
3:40
29
3:07

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Die Schöpfung (The Creation), oratorio, H. 21/2
1
3:53
2
10:55
3
2:29
4
8:20
5
0:29
6
4:01
7
6:58
Missa in Tempore belli, for soloists, chorus, organ & orchestra in C major ("Paukenmesse"), H. 22/9
8
4:45
9
2:56
10
5:27
11
2:31
12
1:16
13
4:43
14
2:12
15
2:41
16
2:45
17
5:35
18
2:22
19
3:12
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