musica Dei donum
Haydn (FJ): Die Schöpfung, oratorio in 3 parts (H XXI,2)
Vasiljka Jezovsek (soprano), Steve Davislim (tenor), Hanno Müller-Brachmann
(bass), RIAS Kammerchor, L'Orchestre des Champs Elysées/Philippe Herreweghe
concert: Utrecht, Oct 18, 1999
Haydn's oratorio Die Schöpfung is still one of his most popular works.
It is performed all over the world every year, although not few people have
their problems with the text. Philippe Herreweghe so far hasn't made a recording
of this work. Maybe the live performances he gave during 1999 were a preparation
for a CD-recording. When the quality of the live performance I attended in Utrecht
is any indication of the quality of such a recording, then that is something to
look forward to.
The performance made a very good start with the orchestral overture,
which illustrates the chaos before the creation. The very unusual
harmonies - unusual for that time, of course - with a lot of
chromaticism, came across very impressively, helped by the use of
period instruments. In a way, the 'old' instruments with their sharp
edges make the music sound even more 'modern' than modern instruments
would. During the whole performance the orchestra was very convincing.
The many solo contributions - in particular in the second part, where
Haydn uses the instruments to portray the animals mentioned in the
text - were all excellent.
It is hardly necessary to say anything about the RIAS Chamber Choir.
In the last ten years or so the choir has developed into one of the
best early music choirs, and has made many brilliant recordings of
18th and 19th century music. It came up to the high expectations. The
first chorus "Und der Geist Gottes schwebte" with the famous ending
"und es ward Licht" was very impressive, just as the glorious ending
of the oratorio "Singet dem Herren alle Stimmen".
What about the the soloists? Let me start with the bass, Hanno Müller-Brachmann.
A young German singer, whom I have heard for the first time in a
recording of Telemann's opera Orpheus, in which he was brilliant.
Later on I heard him in Bach's B-minor Mass, and that was a major
disappointment. But in this performance he just left nothing to be
desired. I was especially pleased by his interpretation of the
recitatives, which he sang in a very free rhythm, directed by the text
rather than the music. Recitatives should be spoken rather than sung,
and that is just what he was doing. The almost visual descriptions in
his recitatives were performed with strong expression.
A pleasant surprise was the young Australian tenor Steve Davislim.
Since 1994 he is a member of the Zurich opera, where has sung roles in
operas by Mozart and Rossini. He has a very pleasant, somewhat light
voice, which makes him very suitable for this sort of repertoire. At
some moments I had liked him to use a little less vibrato, but in
general he gave a very good performance of his rather small role.
The soprano Vasiljka Jezovsek is certainly the best known of the three
soloists. She has sung with many early music specialists like
Herreweghe, Koopman, Schneider and Hengelbrock. I am not always
pleased by her performances, and in this concert she wasn't always
quite convincing. Especially the lower register was sometimes a little
too weak to keep up with the orchestra, and I would have liked less
vibrato from time to time. But the way she sang the aria "Auf starkem
Fittige", in which a number of birds are illustrated in the music, was
very beautiful and there she blended very well with the orchestra. She
and Müller-Brachmann were able to find a warm and 'personal' touch in
the third part, with the duets of Adam and Eve.
In general it was a very beautiful and expressive performance, which
hopefully will appear on CD in the near future.
Johan van Veen (© 1999)