This was an extraordinarily crisp and engaging account of Haydn’s Die Schöpfung (The Creation), led by Omer Meir Wellber with an unerring sense of pace very attuned to the narrative of the work and refreshingly devoid of a ‘grand oratorio’ approach with the recitatives flowing in an almost improvisatory way.
Interestingly, Wellber chose a harpsichord for Part One and a fortepiano for Parts Two and Three and oddly it was the former that was the more audible of the two. Wellber was particularly adept at allowing Haydn’s innovative and playful orchestral depictions of Creation and the establishment of the Universe and all its component parts, be they physical or animate, to really register. He was aided and abetted by fine playing from the BBC Philharmonic. So, the rolling oceans, sporting leviathans, roaring lions, leaping tigers and stags, creeping worms and busy insects all got their due measure – as did the more pastoral moments.
What also characterised Wellber as an interesting exponent of Haydn was his approach to tempo: ‘Representation of Chaos’ was intriguingly fleet and full of sonic felicities, and this also extended to a very energetic pace for the chorus ‘Stimmt an die Saiten, ergreift die Leyer!’. Contrasts were there too. ‘Die Himmel erzählen die Ehre Gottes’ that concludes Part One started at a surprisingly measured speed only picking up pace and intensity after the three singers had made their contributions. The BBC Proms Youth Choir sang very effectively – with alertness, enthusiasm and notable clarity of diction.
Of the solo singers, Christoph Pohl differentiated his roles ably. As Raphael he was relaxed, warm and generous of tone, genially caressing the descriptive parts of the text as he and the other Angels detail God’s work; whereas his Adam was notably bluff and forthright, duetting beautifully with Sarah-Jane Brandon’s bright and light Eve, more relaxed than she had been as Gabriel. Benjamin Hulett was a honey-voiced Uriel, at his appreciable best when conjuring a sense of wonder at the grandeur and resplendence of heavenly spheres, stars and planets, or when cataloguing Eve’s feminine virtues.
Indeed, Haydn’s creative brilliance shone throughout the evening.
- Broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 (available on BBC iPlayer for thirty days afterwards)
- BBC Proms