The Creation, oratorio for soloists, choir, and orchestra, Hob. XXI:2 (109')
Marta Reichelová soprano
Petr Nekoranec tenor
Jozef Benci bass
Prague Philharmonic Choir
Lukáš Vasilek choirmaster
Petr Altrichter conductor
For our Christmas Concert, we have prepared a pre-Christmas gift for our listeners in the form of one of the most beautiful compositions in the entire history of sacred music. Haydn was inspired to compose The Creation during his visit to London, where he heard Handel’s oratorio Israel in Egypt performed at Westminster Abbey by over a thousand musicians. Haydn was so struck by the beautiful, monumental sound that he decided on the spot to write a work of similar beauty celebrating the human spirit.
Johann Peter Salomon brought Haydn a libretto in English titled The Creation, which was originally supposed to have been used by Handel. The text quotes from Genesis, Milton’s Paradise Lost, and the Book of Psalms. The imperial librarian in Vienna, Gottfried van Swieten, translated the text into German, so Haydn was soon able to start working on it.
The Viennese nobility attended the first performance at the Schwarzenberg Palace on 29 April 1798. At the concert, which Haydn conducted, the composer felt “a chill run down his spine”. The public première a year later at the Burgtheater was the greatest triumph of Haydn’s career. The public showered their praise for Haydn with shouts of “Long live music!” Berlioz’s later criticism now tends to evoke a smile: “I have always felt a profound antipathy for this work. […] Its lowing oxen, its buzzing insects, its light in C major which dazzles one like a Carcel lamp […] they make me want to murder somebody.”