Opera + Classical Music Reviews

Haydn: The Creation – McCreesh/Gabrieli Consort and Players @ Barbican, London

26 October 2006

Barbican Centre

Barbican Centre (Photo: Max Colson)

On Thursday evening, there were a number of young faces on the concert platform at the Barbican.

The Gabrieli Consort & Players, on their 25th Anniversary, have invited the Chamber Choir of Chetham’s School of Music to perform with them, not only in the concert hall, but on a CD recording of The Creation from Deutsche Grammophon.

A fantastic idea from the Gabrieli group, there is no question of that, and the youthful exuberance brought to the choir by these youngsters on Thursday’s concert performance was nothing short of breathtaking.

The singers shook the hall to the rafters with energetic and violently committed sound. The monumental fugues fumed, the piano choral accompaniments shimmered. Who made the most noise – students or professionals – is uncertain, but either way, this is how Haydn should be performed.

If only someone had bothered to explain this to the central trio of soloists, for they only occasionally exerted themselves to the benefit of the text. They were fine – very good even – but there was no sparkle. Bass Neal Davies took a while to fully open his throat, while tenor Mark Padmore‘s theatrical and strongly projected voice was hampered by a cumbersome vibrato.

Soprano Sandrine Piau hit the right notes, but her voice was shrill, her coloratura fragmented. Having said this, there was much to enjoy. Davies explored his bass resonance splendidly in Part Two, and the trios in the same section flowed with lyricism and musical understanding.

Miah Persson‘s Eve in Part Three finally provided great singing – creamy, luxurious and eloquent – and the aristocratic baritone of Peter Harvey was an ideal partner. In such hands, the two duets of the final scene seem among the greatest pieces that Haydn penned, and here they flashed by in a haze of gorgeous sound.

Underpinning all were the Gabrieli Players, who gave the astounding score their complete commitment. A few slips, the odd squawk, some poor pitching, somehow did not matter in the context. The orchestra’s garish, brassy ring penetrated the Barbican’s acoustic, while conductor Paul McCreesh‘s driven reading just about compensated for his extravagant hand gestures.

This was not the greatest Creation that London has seen, but when the choir opened their mouths and the orchestra surged in a great forte swell, it seemed to be not far off. The CD looks to be a necessity.

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