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BCS - Concert Notes
BCS Next Concert

Concert Notes
The Creation

7.30pm
31 October 2015

Assembly Rooms

Haydn Creation

For many years, Haydn was employed by Count Nicholas Esterhazy at the family's country estate about 25 miles south of Vienna. When the Count died in 1790, he was succeeded by his son, Anton, who had much less interest in music and was more concerned with controlling the ailing finances of the estate. Consequently, many of the court musicians were dismissed. Though retained on a reduced salary, Haydn was allowed to travel and to concentrate on writing music as an independent composer. His work was well-known in London and his symphonies in particular were very popular. So, as a commercial venture, his friend, the impresario, Johann Salomon, suggested that Haydn might visit the city, writing some new symphonies which could be premiered there.

During his first visit to London in 1791, Haydn attended one of the celebrated Handel festivals in Westminster Abbey. He was so inspired by this first experience of Messiah and Israel in Egypt that he felt impelled to write an oratorio worthy of comparison. Salomon, ever the businessman, soon found Haydn suitable subject matter. The poem, whose authorship is not definitively known, was entitled, 'The Creation of the World', and drew its content from Genesis, the Book of Psalms, and Milton's Paradise Lost.

In 1795, on his return from his second, equally successful, London visit, Haydn started work on the score, using a German translation of the poem made by his colleague, Baron Gottfried von Swieten. The oratorio was not completed until 1798 by which time Haydn was 66 years old. Its first performance in Vienna was followed by more than 80 repeat performances around Europe.

The work starts with the “Representation of Chaos”. Shifting harmonies portray the formlessness that preceded the beginning of the universe. The six days of creation are then successively introduced by the Archangels, Raphael (bass), Uriel (tenor) and Gabriel (soprano). Haydn displays his genius for lavish tone painting, introducing each new element of creation - light, the sun and the moon, the landscape and the oceans, plants and beasts of land, sea and air - in vivid pictorial fashion. Finally, we hear the story of Adam and Eve, with Adam represented by the bass soloist and Eve by the soprano. The libretto focuses on the happy union between Adam and Eve, culminating in a tender marriage duet. The temptation of Eve and expulsion from the Garden of Eden are only indirectly hinted at.


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