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Great Choral Works

Great Choral Works

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Joseph Haydn is regarded as the "father of the symphony" and the "father of the string quartet" for his more than 100 symphonies and almost 70 string quartets. Haydn also produced numerous operas, masses, concertos, piano sonatas and other compositions. His oratorios The Creation and The Seasons, both composed in the last decade of Haydn’s active compositional life, are his most widely known and admired choral compositions today, just as they were in his lifetime. Recordings from some of Haydn’s most formidable interpreters are showcased on this extensive release, including the Bach Collegium Stuttgart, Kammerchor Stuttgart, Helmuth Rilling, and more.


For this set Hänssler have grouped together three major choral works of Haydn from their back catalogue of the many recordings made by the noted German choral conductor Helmuth Rilling. Rilling was the founder of The Oregon Bach Festival, and such musical ensembles as the Gächinger Kantorei and the Bach-Collegium Stuttgart, both of whom appear on these recordings. As filler, some works recorded by the lesser-known Frieder Bernius have also been included.

The first two discs contain Rilling’s 1993 Die Schöpfung. With Rilling this great work proceeds naturally with no hint of forcing the music to wring more drama out of it. He provides tempi that are very solicitous towards his singers. His approach presents the work with a more smiling aspect than one usually encounters. In this aspect Rilling comes closer than anyone else to Leonard Bernstein’s earlier recording of the work with the New York Philharmonic. Rilling’s soloists are a fine team topped by Christiane Schäfer’s exquisitely shapely tones. She makes a lively Gabriel, molding the lines of her recitatives with grace. She provides a heavenly account of “Nun beut die flur” and manages to avoid sounding tweety in the process. Michael Schade is a sunny-sounding Uriel, as he was in the John Eliot Gardiner recording two years later. He is especially good at enunciating his text and producing his sound to evolve from the words, a rare achievement these days. His coloratura is perfectly executed, which makes me place him among the most successful portrayals of Uriel in the catalogue. Andreas Schmidt is a fine Rapaehel. His voice sounds warm and pleasing, yet he suffuses his music with sufficient gravitas for an ideal balance. He manages the awkward intervals of “Rollend in schäumenden” with ease. The choir and orchestra play splendidly and there is a decent sense of ambience to the recording.

The fifth disc brings the oratorio version of The Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross. Maestro Rilling is definitely back on best form here and he leads a really good team of soloists. The disc is rounded off by two shorter items as filler, which proved to be among the real highlights of the set. Both the Responsoria de Venerabili and the Ave Regina Coelorum are bright and fresh-sounding, led by the sure hand of the accomplished Frieder Bernius. The Württemberg ensemble is wonderfully responsive to his lead with a standout solo by Inga Nielsen in the Ave Regina. Nielsen was still in the coloratura phase of her career when this was recorded and her voice exhibits a glow that would lessen as she started heading into more dramatic roles a few years later. This is a superb example of her voice at its zenith. Hearing it makes me want to search out a copy of the Nelson Mass which accompanied these two works on its original release.

--MusicWeb International

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  • Release Specifications

    • Number of Discs: 5
    • Release Date:
    • Label: Haenssler Classic
    • UPC/Barcode: 881488210545
    • Item Number: HC21054