Franz Joseph Haydn

Die Schöpfung (The Creation), oratorio, H. 21/2

    Description by Michael Jameson

    One of Haydn's two greatest choral masterpieces, his oratorio The Creation was composed during 1795, to a libretto specially prepared by the Baron Gottfried von Swieten, and based jointly upon the Book of Genesis, supplemented by appropriate sections of the Book of Psalms, and on John Milton's allegorical study of the creation and fall, Paradise Lost.

    By this time, however, the once seemingly unstoppable Handelian cult of oratorio was rapidly becoming outmoded and unfashionable, in the face of the Enlightenment's call to reason and the rejection of religious dogma in favor of the pursuit of material objectivity. It seems not a little ironic, in retrospect, therefore, that a theme already rejected by Handel himself should provide a point of convergence for Haydn's devout religious faith and the prevailing intellectual climate of the age, engineering at the same a new-found confidence in a genre which seemed to have had its day. The scholar Hans Schnoor called this "an exceptional instance of the complete musical interpretation of the social and individual psyche," and it was doubly remarkable considering the eccentricities and idiosyncrasies which are to found peppering von Swieten's text.

    The oratorio begins with one of the most futuristic episodes to be found in any pre-Romantic music. This is the famous "Representation of Chaos," which serves as a preface to the work. The unfocused harmonic textures and atmosphere of vague formlessness must have stunned Haydn's contemporaries, and the section still sounds uncanny and highly impressionistic to modern ears.

    Another equally inspired moment, and one of which John Milton would doubtless have approved, comes as the chorus sings over a hushed, slowly pulsing orchestral background "And the spirit of God moved on the face of the waters...."

    Suddenly, incredibly, "There was light!" sing the chorus, in one of the most spine-tingling C major fortissimo eruptions to be found anywhere in music! It was a logical, natural move, and one which was wholly characteristic of late, great Haydn at the summit of his powers. There now follows one exultant outpouring after another, as the chorus of the heavenly host sing praises in honor of each successive day of creation.

    Narrative or purely descriptive numbers are given over to the three soloists, named after the archangels Gabriel, Uriel, and Raphael, supported by orchestra alone. However, Haydn's expertly applied technical skills ensures that there is a pleasing balance throughout between the respective vocal and instrumental forces, as can be heard whenever chorus and soloists are heard together. Good examples of this are "The marv'llous work behold amazed" for soprano with chorus, and the trio "Most beautiful appear," which leads directly to the chorus "The Lord is Great." In this section, all three soloists and chorus are employed, with orchestra, as they are also in the most famous section of the oratorio "The Heavens are telling the Glory of God."

    Parts/Movements

    1. Introduction. Die Vorstellung des Chaos
    2. Im Anfange schuf Gott
    3. Und der Geist Gottes schwebte auf der Fläche der Wasser
    4. Nun schwanden vor dem heiligen Strahle
    5. Verzweiflung, Wut und Schrecken
    6. Und Gott machte das Firmament
    7. Da tobten brausend heftige Sturme
    8. Mit Staunen sieht das Wunderwerk
    9. Und laut ertönt aus ihren Kehlen
    10. Und Gott sprach: Es sammle sich das Wasser
    11. Rollend in schäumenden Wellen
    12. Und Gott sprach: Es bringe die Erde Gras hervor
    13. Nun beut die Flur das frische Grün
    14. Und die himmlischen Heerscharen
    15. Stimmt an die Saiten
    16. Und Gott sprach: Es sei'n Lichter an der Feste der Himmels
    17. In vollem Glanze (Accompagnato)
    18. Die Himmel erzählen die Ehre Gottes (The Heavens Are Telling)
    19. Und Gott sprach: Es bringe das Wasser
    20. Auf starken Fittige schwinget sich dr Adler stolz
    21. Und Gott schuf grosse Walfische und ein jedes
    22. Seid fruchtbar alle (Accompagnato)
    23. Und die Engel rührten ihr' unsterblichen Harfen
    24. In holder Anmut stehn
    25. Der Herr ist gross in seiner Macht
    26. Und Gott sprach: Es bringe die Erde hervor lebende Geschöpfe nach ihrer Art
    27. Gleich öffnet sih der Erde Schoss (Accompagnato)
    28. Nun scheint in vollem Glanze der Himmel
    29. Und Gott schuf den Menschen
    30. Mit Würd' und Hoheit angetan
    31. Und Gott sah jedes Ding
    32. Vollendet is das grosse Werk
    33. Zu dir, o Herr, blickt alles
    34. Vollendet is das grosse Werk
    35. Alles lobe seinen Namen
    36. Aus Rosenwolken bricht, geweckt
    37. Von deiner Gut, o Herr und Gott
    38. Der Sterne hellster, o wie schon
    39. Heil dir, o Gott!
    40. Nun ist die erste Pflicht erfullt
    41. Holde Gattin!
    42. Der thauende Morgen, o wie ermuntert er!
    43. O glücklich Paar
    44. Singt dem Herren alle Stimmen!
    45. Des Herren Ruhm, er bleibt in Ewigkeit

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2019 BR Klassik BRK 900174
    2018 Pentatone / PentaTone Classics PTC 5186614
    2018 Decca / Deutsche Grammophon 4798418
    2017 Deutsche Grammophon 4797060
    2016 ABC Classics 4814657
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 4796438
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 002894795516
    2016 Sony Classical / Sony Music Distribution 88875173752
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 4796018
    2015 Coro 16135
    2015 Phi LPH 018
    2015 Warner Classics 552758
    2014 BR Klassik 900125
    2014 Fra Bernardo FB 1301272
    2014 Deutsche Grammophon
    2013 Haenssler HAEN 98007
    2013 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099972354
    2012 Brilliant Classics 94384
    2012 Helicon Classics HEL 029657
    2012 Accent ACC 24270
    2012 Linn Records CKD 401
    2012 Sony Classical 88725463942
    2012 Deutsche Grammophon 002894770055
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon 4779767
    2011 DHM Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 88697959522
    2011 Harmonia Mundi HMC 90203940
    2011 Oxford Philomusica OP 0089
    2010 Avi-Music 8553190
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon
    2009 Warner Classics
    2009 Sony Classics 748045
    2009 Harmonia Mundi 992039.40
    2009 LSOI 628
    2009 Berlin Classics 0149492
    2009 Naxos 8507008
    2009 Decca 4781377
    2009 Document 231558
    2008 Deutsche Grammophon 453031
    2008 TON 4 / Zebralution
    2008 Bel Canto 6013
    2008 Archiv Produktion 4777361
    2008 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler 7074
    2007 Deutsche Grammophon 000817802
    2007 Oehms Classics 609
    2007 Apex
    2007 Virgin Classics 0946395235
    2007 ORF DVWW-COCREA
    2007 Decca 0711269
    2007 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 0946375929
    2006 Nightingale 190094
    2006 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 0946350842
    2006 London Philharmonic Orchestra / LPO 8
    2005 Accent 58228/29
    2005 Naxos 6110073-74
    2005 Farao / Farao Classics 108025
    2005 Naxos 8557380-81
    2004 Brilliant 99752
    2004 Teldec
    2004 DHM Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 58340
    2004 Testament 1363
    2004 Brilliant 92395
    2004 Deutsche Grammophon 474955
    2004 Deutsche Grammophon 000218602
    2003 Archipel 0100
    2002 DHM Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 77537
    2002 Golden Melodram 40055
    2002 EMI Music Distribution 575163
    2002 Disques Pierre Verany 730076
    2001 Vox 7806
    1999 Phonographie PH 502930
    1998 Newport Classic 85627
    1997 Archiv Produktion 449217
    1997 Deutsche Grammophon 449761
    1996 Teldec 10026
    1996 EMI Classics 69343
    1996 Decca
    1996 Berlin Classics 0091152
    1995 Preiser Records 90104
    1995 Decca 443 445-2DH2
    1995 Orfeo 150852
    1995 Deutsche Grammophon 437380
    1995 Philips 446175
    1995 Capriccio Records 60065
    1995 Sony Music Distribution 57965
    1994 BIS 493/94
    1994 Haenssler 98938
    1994 London 443027
    1992 Telarc Distribution 80298
    1992 EMI Music Distribution 67489
    1992 Vox 5025
    1992 Sony Music Distribution SM2K-47560
    1991 Deutsche Grammophon 435077
    1990 Decca 430397
    1988 Albany Music Distribution AR005/6
    1984 Deutsche Grammophon 410718
    Vanguard Classics 34/35
    Deutsche Grammophon 419765
    Deutsche Grammophon 427629
    Brilliant 99753
    Accord 200422
    Philips 416449
    Phonographe 5029
    Laserlight 14145
    Ton 4