Choir singing in Royal Hall
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Haydn - The Creation
Royal Hall, Harrogate, 12 June 2010

Creation flyer

Lucky Britain that was able to inspire Haydn to contribute The Creation to its rich oratorio tradition. Lucky us who, on June 12, decided to avoid the frustrations of viewing the efforts of Capello's men and to attend instead the Harrogate Choral Society's performance of this work at the Royal Hall. It is, indeed, a brilliant composition, displaying all of Haydn's imagination, invention and humour. This is particularly true of the orchestration which provides musical pictures of different facets of God's creation of the world, from the unusual harmonies of the representation of chaos, through the rhythmic devices for the elemental forces of wind, rain, hail and snow, to the delightful melodies depicting the animals, such as a soaring clarinet for the larks, and lugubrious low notes by cellos and double basses for a sinuous worm. If the strings in the Amici Ensemble were not always nimble enough for the intricacies of Haydn's score, the demands were fully met by the woodwind players who produced some lovely sounds.

All of the three solo singers had fine voices, especially the soprano Sarah Fox; there was a gleaming freshness to her top notes. The Tenor Matthew Minter contributed a most sensitive interpretation of his recitatives and single aria. The bass John Cunningham impressed with his forthright declamatory style, but could perhaps have brought more variety of colour to the interpretation of the text. In the long duet towards the end, both he, as Adam, and Sarah Fox, as Eve, could have extracted a little more from the musical phrasing to communicate their mutual rapture, to match their body language.

The choral parts of The Creation are relatively straightforward, since throughout their role is predominantly that of singing God’s praises in robust and often rollicking tunes. The qualities of the Harrogate Choral Society, expertly prepared by their conductor Andrew Padmore, were again apparent: their clear articulation, precise entries, control of dynamics and, above all, in their energetic, bright sounds. Even though the tenors and basses may be short in terms of numbers, they sang with confidence and commitment. The choir's rendering of "Achieved is the Glorious Work" was given with such evident enjoyment that we, in the audience, felt like joining in with their Hallelujahs in praise of Haydn. Can we now have a performance of his other choral masterpiece and "Glorious Work", The Seasons, please Mr Padmore?

Anthony Ogus