Emelyanychev’s little twiddles and tweaks keeps Haydn’s Creation sounding fresh

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Haydn’s The Creation: Lydia Teuscher (soprano), Andrew Staples (tenor), Hanno Müller-Brachmann (bass baritone), SCO Chorus, Scottish Chamber Orchestra / Maxim Emelyanychev (conductor). Usher Hall, Edinburgh, 6.10.2022. (SRT)

Maxim Emelyanychev conducts the SCO © Chris Christodoulou

HaydnThe Creation

I always complain about a UK Creation when it is performed in German. We can argue about the sort of translation to use, but we cannot argue about the fact that immediacy is lost for an Anglophone audience when the singing is in German, particularly when, unlike in most operas, there are several very fine, experienced translations on hand to use. More is lost than gained, especially when the chorus are English speakers, and doing it in German feels like a lost opportunity.

The choice of language was the only thing I found to complain about in this sparky performance, though, where pretty much everything worked. I have heard The Creation four times in my life, and all four performances were with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. They know the score inside out and when they play it their lifetime’s acquaintance with it gushes out, not just in the beautiful music but in the joy with which they articulate it. The Creation is already one of the sunniest, most consistently joyful things in all of music, and the SCO play it without any sense of portent or awe, just a sense of a beautiful thing unfolding naturally.

Much of that was thanks to their galvanising Principal Conductor, Maxim Emelyanychev. Haydn’s The Seasons was one of his earliest triumphs with them, a sign that they were going to be a fantastic team, and I had expected fireworks from his Creation. In the end his reading was straighter than I had anticipated, with little to startle the horses, but there were lots of little twiddles and tweaks to keep Haydn’s score sounding fresh, such as his insistence that the strings play without vibrato, or his pointing up of solo instruments like the flatulent contrabassoon or chirruping flutes. He also gave real bounce to the continuo line, tossing off flourishes as though it were all in a day’s work.

The SCO Chorus matched the orchestra exciting singing, not least in all their fugal moments, and some excellent German articulation, enunciating every consonant with precision. Andrew Staples, too, pronounced his German impeccably, and sang with energy, despite some occasionally nasal tone. Hanno Müller-Brachmann channelled his inner Elijah to declaim his part with firmness and gravitas, whilst softening his voice beautifully for the Adam and Eve scene. Finest of all, though, was Lydia Teuscher, a late stand-in as the soprano soloist, but a total delight. Her pearly voice with its sparkling top positively gleamed, and she used it with agility and freshness.

Two thumbs up, then, but next time in English, please!

Simon Thompson

1 thought on “Emelyanychev’s little twiddles and tweaks keeps Haydn’s <i>Creation</i> sounding fresh”

  1. .. agreed, a wonderful concert, and I was happy to hear it in German as I doubt I’ll get the chance again. But what I was unhappy about was the £4 programme, including full English libretto – which, once the house lights went down, was completely illegible in the dark, even after the interval when the lights were ‘back up to half’ (after complaints to Annie, a helpful usher).

    This happens too often, and with the RSNO too. Were the SCO representatives present really completely unaware that their programme was totally useless during this concert? Were they not trying to follow the concert with their programmes too? (Or are they all so expert, unlike the rest of us, that they don’t need to?)

    Perhaps they all had torches .. !


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