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Haydn created ... and we heard that it was good.

Byline: Paul Denison The Register-Guard

The 2005 Oregon Bach Festival will end at the beginning, with artistic director Helmuth Rilling conducting "The Creation" by Franz Joseph Haydn.

Based on the first chapter of the Bible's Book of Genesis, with poetic commentary added, the libretto of Haydn's grand oratorio covers six days, with three archangels as narrators, and then takes a day of rest with Eve and Adam in the garden of Eden.

Haydn set out to emulate George Frideric Handel, whose oratorios loomed large, literally and figuratively, over the London concert scene during Haydn's visits there after 1790.

Although Handel had written many biblical oratorios, he had never tackled the creation story.

So Haydn went to work.

``When he composed `The Creation,' '' Rilling says, ``he had already written more than 100 symphonies, all his wonderful chamber music, 14 operas, 16 masses and many other sacred works. He is in the wonderful situation to know that he has mastered and experienced all these different musical forms.

``After his visit to England, he knows Handel's tradition and tries now with a text which is of English background (John Milton) to create something similar. He feels challenged, but in a very relaxed way. What he composes is, in my opinion, the happiest and most joyful oratorio in the history of music.''

And dramatic as well.

In festival program notes, Peter Bergquist calls "Representation of Chaos," the orchestral introduction, "the most daring music Haydn had written to that time," citing the composer's use of dissonant harmonies.

The subsequent creation of light, Bergquist writes, "is one of the most staggering and also one of the simplest effects in all of music, as the darkness of chaos is suddenly obliterated."

And that's just the warm-up.

As the six-day narrative unfolds, Bergquist writes, Haydn provides "musical analogs for the storms, floods, rain and snow; the mighty oceans and gentle streams; the entwined shoots of the new plants; the sunrise, high noon and the moon; the flight of the eagle and the cooing of the dove; the whales and fish in the depths; the animals on land, from the lion to the worm.

This procedure lends great charm to the oratorio, and Haydn never pursues it far enough to be tiresome."

In the Handel-like choruses that bring each day of creation to a close, Bergquist writes, "solid fugues alternate with powerful, simple harmony" in which the heavenly host praises that day's works.

In the oratorio's pastoral third part, Adam and Eve become the principal praise singers:

"By Thee with bliss, O bounteous Lord, the heaven and earth are stored. This world so great, so wonderful, thy mighty hand has framed."

Soprano Donna Brown, tenor James Taylor and Russell Braun will narrate the creation story as the archangels, which the libretto identifies as Gabriel, Uriel and Raphael, a la Milton's "Paradise Lost." In the garden of Eden, Brown and Braun will sing the words of Eve and Adam.


The Creation

What: Helmuth Rilling conducts the Festival Choir and Orchestra in Franz Joseph Haydn's oratorio based on the Genesis story

When: Sunday, July 10

Where: Silva Concert Hall, Hult Center, Seventh Avenue and Willamette Street

Tickets: $27-$49 through the box office, 682-5000 or
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Title Annotation:Entertainment
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jul 3, 2005
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