Jordi Savall’s 80th birthday celebrations have been marked by acts of homage to works for which he has had special affection. After the recent release of Victoria’s Holy Week music comes this May 2021 recording of Haydn’s most famous oratorio. Opting for relatively modest forces (a chorus of 20 and orchestra of 36) Savall presents a thoughtful, historically informed account with elements of beauty and charm.
Foremost amongst these is the rich sonority and engaged playing of Savall’s orchestra, Le Concert des Nations. From the opening Representation of Chaos, there is not only a sense of entering into the drama of the creation story, but of being transported into Haydn’s sound world.
Attempting to navigate a middle path between the more expansive speeds for larger forces such as used by Paul McCreesh and the brisk “early music” approach of Frans Brüggen, Savall’s tempos for the most part support the dramatic thrust of the music, but tighter pacing between successive movements would have strengthened the oratorio’s onward flow.
In keeping with smaller production values, Savall uses three soloists rather than having separate singers for Adam and Eve in Part Three. The three young singers blend well together; soprano Yeree Suh’s light, clear tone aptly conveys the wonder of life before the fall and Tilman Lichdi’s bright tenor is also well suited to the task. At times, baritone Matthias Winckhler needs greater vocal heft to make his dramatic presence felt.
The only downside of the excellent orchestra is to cast a shadow over the under-resourced chorus. A greater number of singers, particularly sopranos, would have prevented La Capella Reial de Catalunya coming across as a junior partner in an enterprise where the choral component is key. While offering much to intrigue the ear, this Creation does not add up to more than the sum of its often elegant parts.
Composer: Joseph Haydn
Work: Die Schöpfung (The Creation)
Performers: Yeree Suh, Tilman Lichdi, Matthias Winckhler La Capella Reial de Catalunya, Le Concert des Nations, Jordi Savall
Label: Alia Vox AVSA9945 (2SACD)