No other work has contributed to the fame of Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) like his oratorio "The Creation", however, no other expresses the inner wealth of the composer, the greatness of his art, in such an outright manner. To establish Haydn's immortality his symphonies and quartets would have already been enough, however, without "The Creation" we would not able to estimate the whole scope of his talent, because this composition does not only exceed his usual range of instrumental music, but it led the composer to entirely new ways of the musical development of thought and structure.
|Haydn was one of the first composers to write a pitch |
change as well as a written out solo for the timpani
in a symphonic movement.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The poetic voyage in "The Creation" from pole to pole of the visible and invisible world makes it an especially complex oratorio, Haydn has solved the challenging demands he had to face with incomparable confidence and added unexpected and peculiar characteristics to the poetic representation, in which also humour has its place. In Haydn's interpretation the psychic and mysterious character of the act of creation steps back behind the joyous gratitude to the creator. The music unfolds an unsurpassable inventiveness.
The composition is especially admired for its form. Only a composer like Haydn could join the immense plenitude of the subjects and scenes so clearly arranged, comprehensively and, nevertheless, impressively. The artistic freedom and beauty of "The Creation", which have inspired many artists since its first performance, will be continually considered exemplary for music.
As can be proven by his early oratorio "Il ritorno di Tobia", Haydn was mainly influenced by the Italian school, he had already encountered Händel's new art in Vienna, "The Creation" owes, but in London it had effected him with all its splendour. During his second stay, Haydn received the text for "The Creation", which a poet, unknown in the history of literature called Lidley (more recent research claims it was written anonymously) allegedly had written for Händel, who had probably rejected the text because of its length, however, it was composed in the three act order typical to Händel's oratorios. Not until his return to Vienna did Haydn decide on the composition, at the instigation of the well-known Händel-admirer Baron van Swieten, who amateurishly translated the English original himself. The composition took the three years from 1795-98, a strenuous endeavour of which he complained over and over again, both orally and in writing.
The success of the, at first, privately performed oratorio - on the 29th and 30th April at the Schwartzenberg palace, then on the 19th January and 19th March at the Viennese Burgtheater - was unequalled. "The Creation" brought to the composer constant honour, within and outside Germany it was performed over and over again and highly celebrated. Church music took over single choir parts, German "Kurrenden" (boys choirs) sang them until well over the middle of the 19-th century. Another remarkable effect is also of special interest: "The Creation" inspired the founding of many choir clubs and music institutes, among them the "Allgemeine Schweizer Musikgesellschaft". Haydn's composition entailed an increase in the performance of the oratorios by Händel, an independent German oratorio school evolved, which could finally overcome the rule of the Italian style.