Friday, May 1, 2009

NSO - All-Haydn - 04/30/09

Conductor: Helmuth Rilling
Haydn: Die Schopfung (The Creation)
Soprano: Klara Ek
Tenor: James Taylor
Bass-baritone: Nathan Berg
University of Maryland Concert Choir

After the short pieces of the NSO Youth Fellows, it was time for a long and involving work by the NSO under the German baton of early music specialist Helmuth Rilling, our special guest for the evening. A three-part secular narration of the Genesis (first four days, fifth and sixth days, and Adam and Eve), The Creation features a beautiful musical score, demanding parts for the soloists, and some treacherous singing for the chorus. Let there be light!

The fact that the programs did not contain any libretto was in some way annoying, or at least challenging, but I ended up relishing the forced opportunity to concentrate on the detailed playing of the music, my German being way too abysmal these days to catch more than a few words now and then, although arias and recitatives were very clearly articulated. After the printed texts got distributed during intermission, a quick review had me notice how hopelessly trite the English translation often was anyway (Can't speak for the German original) and I figured I was actually better off focusing on the music and using my imagination.
Under the informed direction of maestro Rilling, the orchestra delivered subtly evocative depictions of chaos, nature, animals, and eventually Adam and Eve's blissful time on earth. The NSO was in fine form, and the chorus delivered stunningly layered singing. Not to be outdone, the three soloists were more than up to the task: soprano Klara Ek did sound like a heavenly angel thanks to her firm, agile voice and managed to make German sound harmonious (Not a small task!), baritone Nathan Berg displayed a delicately dark register and was a high-spirited Adam, and tenor James Taylor's dramatic purity and understated nobility got the audience's undivided attention more than once.

All those powerful forces splendidly aligned and treated us to a brilliant performance. The grand scale of the whole piece retained a relatable human dimension, and it sheer beauty quietly radiated throughour the concert hall. And there was light!

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