The Creation
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The Creation

Mostly Mozart Festival

THE 2015 MOSTLY MOZART FESTIVAL concluded with Haydn’s Creation (seen on August 22), a work well-suited to conductor Louis Langrée’s outgoing musical energy and genial podium manner. Two of the three vocal soloists were last minute substitutes, yet confidence and joy characterized the work, lasting under two hours and played without intermission.

Now a must-see part of New York City’s summer cultural scene, the festival attracts a varied crowd, and includes thought-provoking program notes that go beyond facts and figures. In this case Peter A. Hoyt challenged the customary Enlightenment blanket generally thrown over this 1797 oratorio, making a case for the work’s conception, with its fifty-year old libretto drawn from the Bible and from Milton’s Paradise Lost, as part of a Counter-Enlightenment. Rather than reason, the work celebrates devotion to God and to order, as man is admonished not to strive too much or seek to know more than he should. Satan, temptation, and the sorry ending to the story of Adam and Eve play no part in Haydn’s celebration of the world’s first week.

The festival orchestra’s clarity of texture and tone was highlighted in the work’s opening depiction of chaos, a creepy and fluid instrumental introduction that moves through harmonic areas without ever settling. Later, Haydn’s delightful depictions of sunrise, the cooing dove and the nightingale’s song, the whale and the worm were all beautifully detailed by the various instruments. James Bagwell’s Concert Chorale of New York brought delicacy to its opening pianissimo statement, “And the Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters,” and sang throughout with finesse, as Langrée brought increasing point to the various cheerful choral movements, from the simple delight of “A new created world springs up at God’s command” to the energetic dynamic contrasts of “Hail, bounteous Lord!”

John Relyea commanded his many recitatives handsomely (the bass gets the wonderful extended scene with the depictions of the roaring lion, the leaping tiger, the nimble stag, the sprightly steed, and the whirling insects), and brought power and perfect diction to the arias “Rolling in foaming billows” and “Now heav’n in fullest glory shone.”

Tenor Thomas Cooley’s attention to detail was a plus throughout the evening, and hushed moments were especially effective. His sweet tone characterized an arresting depiction of the silvery moon, and he created a gorgeous, awed moment in the recitative “In rosy mantle.” Observing the creating of Adam and Eve, Cooley maintained a sense of wonder and tenderness, ascending to a gorgeous pianissimo as Eve looks upon Adam with “love and joy and bliss.” 

Soprano Sarah Tynan, the only originally-scheduled soloist, was a delight, singing with a light lilt and rhythmic sureness in “With verdure clad” and making easy work of the cooing and trilling in “On mighty pens” with lovely top notes and vocal flexibility. —Judith Malafronte 

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