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The Early Music Masters Celebrated Haydn’s Masterpiece

Hong Kong
Concert Hall, Hong Kong Cultural Center
10/19/2009 -  & July 31 (Eltville im Rheingau), September 12 (Perugia), October 4 (Köln), 21, 22, 23, 24 (Beijing)
Franz Joseph Haydn: Die Schöpfung
Miriam Meyer (Gabriel), Colin Balzer (Uriel), Thomas Scharr (Raphael), Elisabetta Lombardi (Eve), Klaus Mertens (Adam)
Orchester der KlangVerwaltung and Chorgemeinschaft Neubeuern, Enoch zu Guttenberg (Conductor)

E. zu Guttenberg

Haydn’s Die Schöpfung (The Creation), since it was first premiered in 1799, enjoys enormous popularity and supreme status among choral masterpieces. Based on biblical story of the creation, the work is structured in three parts with alternative recitatives, arias, and choruses. On Monday evening, the Munich based Orchester der KlangVerwaltung and its German director Enoch zu Guttenberg, together with the Chorgemeinschaft Neubeuern, performed the work in German.

Just from the sound of the orchestra, one could possibly realize that it is an ensemble with period performance practice. The vibrato-less strings, classical timpani, and insipid winds produced extra sense of period sonority. Conductor Guttenberg incorporated a mild force with only 18 violins and 3 double basses. Their chamber scale intonation made the performance exceptionally ‘classical’. The phrasings were elegantly polished, the piano passages were hushed, and the climaxes were never domineering. He deliberately underscored the music’s pleasance and joy rather than grandeur.

The historically informed practice from the five soloists fitted perfectly to the orchestra’s interpretation. Their flattened voices and understated dynamics, especially in the recitatives, somehow evoked a Baroque oratorio like Handel’s Messiah (the choral passage before the end of Part 2 is of striking similarity to the opening of Messiah). However, tenor Colin Balzer’s feeble voice was occasionally overshadowed by the orchestra in the tutti passages and by the other two soloists in the trios. Even when I was sitting at the left side of the tenth row, a position near to the tenor, Mr. Balzer’s voice was barely audible. It was telling exemplified in the monochromic aria by the Uriel and the chorus right at the beginning of the piece. On the contrary, mezzo-soprano Elisabetta Lombardi’s voice (Eve) was over expressive. Her Italian opera-like tone showed stark contrast to the interpretative style of the orchestra and the other four soloists. It was soprano Miriam Meyer’s elegant and pearly voice which sounded most charming and harmonious with the orchestra. Every word in the ‘bird aria’ was exquisitely painted with variegated colors. The bass Thomas Scharr (Raphael) also sang with virile and solidity.

Mr. Guttenberg’s long-term collaborator Chorgemeinschaft Neubeuern was also with agility as the music needs. Their voice ranged from whispering pianissimo to majestic glory of God, bringing bewitching dynamics without compromising their classical taste.

It was a pity that there were plenty of empty seats in Monday’s concert. After tonight, the entire crew will be traveling to Beijing for three more concerts with all Haydn program, including The Creation on the final evening. Hopefully their performances will be more enthusiastically responded.

Orchester der KlangVerwaltung’s Website (in German)

Danny Kim-Nam Hui



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