The real star of `Creation' is its creator

Oratorio: The choir and soloists offer great performances, but Haydn's masterful account of the Book of Genesis episode takes top billing.

Arundel Live

May 04, 2000|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The real star of Saturday night's Haydn "Creation," performed by the Annapolis Chorale, wasn't conductor Ernest Green, his choir, or even his gorgeously adept solo soprano and bass.

No, the true hero of the evening was Franz Joseph Haydn. And that's as it should be, for what a majestic, affirming, surpassingly tuneful account of the Book of Genesis he left us.

Nearly all of what transpired under Green's baton proved admirable at the service of Haydn's greatest oratorio. His singers were nicely prepared, so that magnificent choruses such as "Awake the Harp," "Fulfilled at Last the Glorious Work" and the concluding "The Lord Is Great" rang out with authority and verve.

Indeed, save for a dreadful splat from the tenors in "The Heavens Are Telling" and a rather matter-of-fact build-up to the cataclysmic outburst at "And There Was Light," the choral singing was beyond reproach.

Soprano Amy Cofield and bass Jason Hardy proved gorgeous proponents of Haydn's solo writing. Both have young, expressive voices full of character, elegance and, in the Adam and Eve arias of Part III, more than a little sex appeal.

Cofield cooed most alluringly as the dove in "On Mighty Wings," and her account of the greening of the world was spun out with consummate elegance and grace.

Hardy was also splendid: virile and strong when conjuring up the foaming billows of newly created oceans, and full of interpretive fun when depicting the tigers, stags, cattle and lowly worms of Part II. (He didn't fool anyone with his nonexistent low D in the worm sequence, but I'd have been disappointed if he hadn't tried!)

The most mesmerizing moments of the evening came when the two, as Adam and Eve, contemplated the wonder of love in a new world with Haydn's achingly beautiful oboe line calling them to the highest possible level of awareness. What a miracle this piece is.

The third soloist, tenor Jeffrey Halili, is a talented fellow who couldn't quite conquer his tendency to bellow his way to "odd man out" status at inopportune moments. He was, however, wonderfully heroic describing man as "King of Nature All" as the moon rose with haunting beauty.

Alas, he was too coarse to blend with his peers in the "From Thee, O Lord" trio and should have sacrificed power for sheer beauty of tone at other junctures as well.

Nice work from Green on the podium where he set an expansive, ingratiating pace that allowed the work to unfold naturally with its warm humanity fully intact. Bravo.

I offer a brief wish list for next time. One hope is that the bassoons and cellos be encouraged to tune themselves more rigorously. Ouch.

Another is that even more affectionate notice be taken of some of the exquisite twists and turns of Haydn's harmonies, particularly in the solos.

As the soprano describes the verdant warmth of God's handiwork, for example, Haydn shifts her ever so gracefully from the key of B flat to D flat to A flat, from major to minor, and points in between. Even as Eden is under construction, I'd like to be nudged to stop and smell even more of these harmonic roses the composer left for me along the way.

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