Classical Gilbert Podcast - Haydn - Creation Oratorio


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The Creation (Die Schöpfung) is an oratorio written between 1796-8 by Joseph Haydn, and considered by many to be his masterpiece. It depicts and celebrates the creation of the world as described in the biblical Book of Genesis and in Paradise Lost. It is scored for soprano, tenor and bass soloists (representing the Archangels Gabriel, Uriel, and Raphael), chorus and a symphonic orchestra, and is structured in three parts. it is said that Haydn was inspired to write this piece when he heard, during his visits to England, oratorios by Handel performed by large forces. It is likely that Haydn wanted to try to achieve results of comparable weight by employing the mature classical style. The libretto draws from the Genesis, the Psalms, and Milton's Paradise Lost. After a private indoors performance (which nonetheless gathered a large crowd outside the building) the first public performance was at Viennas Burgtheater in 1799.

The Creation is set for three vocal soloists (soprano, tenor, and bass, with an incidental solo for alto in the finale), four-part chorus (soprano, alto, tenor, bass), and a large Classical orchestra consisting of 3 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, alto, tenor, and bass trombones, timpani, and the usual string sections of first and second violins, violas, cellos, and double basses. For the recitatives a harpsichord or fortepiano is also used. There seems little doubt that Haydn wanted a big sound (by the standard of his day) for his work. Between the private premieres for nobles and the public premiere in 1799, Haydn added extra instrumental parts to the work. The forces for the public premiere numbered about 120 instrumentalists and 60 singers. A typical performance lasts about one hour and 45 minutes.

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