Of the almost two dozen operas Franz Joseph Haydn – some for marionettes, some for human singers – none gave a hint of the genius for vocal writing the Father of the Symphony displayed in The Creation. Written roughly a dozen years before his death, Haydn had developed by the years 1796 to 1798 a complete command of composing for all the instruments available to him in his time as well as a gift for writing for the human voice.

In his two great oratorios – The Creation and The Seasons – and in his many sacred vocal works Haydn came to master the difficult art of setting text to music. He was right in respectfully avoiding assigning human character traits to his trio of archangel narrators in the first part of The Creation, opting instead for a neutrality in the vocal writing for Gabriel (soprano), Uriel (tenor), and Raphael (bass) that allows both music and text to remain elevated at all times to a sober narrative neutrality, while freely adopting musical forms rooted in Classical opera and German song.

Haydn’s choral writing in The Creation is exceptionally fine as are the imaginative mastery of orchestration and tone painting that he displayed in his Clock, Military, and Drum Roll symphonies. The sweep of the ocean’s waves, the roar of beasts, the upward flights of birds are all delightfully depicted, with a hint of humor at times. At other times abstract notions, like the dark nothingness that exists before the creation of the universe in the opening Chaos gets a harmonically vague stretch that is suddenly replaced by the creation of light.

Zubin Mehta, aged 84 at the time of this recording in November of 2020, led the excellent orchestra and chorus of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino – incidentally on the very same stage where he made his Florence debut fifty years before – while guiding his fine trio of soloists – soprano Hanna-Elisabeth Müller, tenor Maximillian Schmitt, and baritone Michael Volle with elegance and complete stylistic assuredness.

The Dynamic  DVD was directed by Tiziano Mancini and neatly produced and annotated.

Rafael de Acha                  ALL ABOUT THE ARTS