Sally Matthews (soprano), Andrew Kennedy (tenor) & Neal Davies (bass)
Choir of the Enlightenment
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Sir Mark Elder
The Creation – OAE/Elder
Wednesday, December 09, 2009 Southbank Centre, London – Royal Festival Hall, London
Reviewed by Colin Anderson
Once again the instrumentalists (and their instruments) of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment beguiled the ear with distinctive timbres and ideal balances. Mark Elder, baton-less, was relaxed, a presence, a guide, and there was the feeling of a large family coming together to spontaneously serve the music and its composer, the great Joseph Haydn. You could have bet your shirt, and a spare if you had one with you, that this would be the case. For a couple of hours there was nothing more natural than singing, playing and listening to this wonderful score.
There was some adjusting to do, though, particularly if conductors like Leonard Bernstein and Colin Davis have been at the helm of previous performances – with modern instruments, larger choirs and operatic soloists – and there were times during this OAE outing when things seemed a little lightweight, too flowing, although it could equally be that everything was so innate. If Sally Matthews appeared a little studied during Part 1, she was dramatically urgent to open Part 2 – waters, creatures and fowl – and sparkled thereafter. By contrast, Andrew Kennedy floated magically Uriel’s recitative (“In brightest splendour...”) and Neal Davies was a model of clarity and narrative throughout.
A sense of pictorial celebration informed this account, joyously so in the choruses, and one was enchanted by the pearly tone of the fortepiano and the deft and characterful contributions made by woodwinds and brass. This was a performance that reported Creation rather than suggesting we were a part of it; there were certainly some seismic outbursts though, not least at “light”, when the choir was overpowered by the orchestra, but at almost every other turn, so much was ideally judged, friends, whether performers or listeners, involved with a musical glory.