Glover, Music of the Baroque soar in Haydn’s “Creation”

Tue Apr 01, 2014 at 1:05 pm

By Lawrence A. Johnson

"Creation" by Darlene M. Keeffe.
“Creation” by Darlene M. Keeffe.

Jane Glover is one of those conductors who is often at her best in large and ambitious choral works, where the extra resources seem to spark an extra bit of verve and dedication.

So it proved again Monday night at the Harris Theater where she led Music of the Baroque in Haydn’s The Creation.

Haydn’s two oratorios, The Seasons and The Creation, are his masterpieces, both composed late in life and offering a showcase for his distinctive qualities: the melodic richness, fugal mastery, spiritual depth, imaginative—even audacious—scoring, and a buoyant optimistic spirit that makes the music irresistible.

Yet for all the individuality of Haydn’t writing, one can also hear resonances of the past and present. In no other work did Haydn channel his inner Handel as manifestly as in The Creation with the divided choral writing and dazzling contrapuntal flair echoing his great predecessor. The charming duet for Adam and Eve seems to evoke the graceful, galant spirit of his young friend Mozart. And though Beethoven claimed he “learned nothing” from his brief time as a Haydn student, it’s hard not to see the Creation‘s exhilarating final chorus planting the seed for the heaven-storming vocal finale of Beethoven’s Ninth.

Under Glover’s vital and nuanced direction, the excellent three soloists and the Music of the Baroque orchestra and chorus delivered an ebullient, vividly characterized performance that gave us one of MOB’s finest efforts of recent seasons.

Of the three soloists, Nicholas Phan delivered a virtual seminar in oratorio singing. From his boldly projected first entrance, the tenor’s singing was simply sensational: technically faultless, rendered with a virile yet sweet timbre, finely graded expression and exemplary diction.

Clad in a glamorous olive gown, Elizabeth Futral looked lovely and verdant and sang with clear, refined tone. At times, as in “With verdure clad,” Futral seemed fitfully insecure in the high coloratura passages, yet she provided the requisite bright tones for Gabriel and was a charming Eve, singing sweetly in Part III.

Christopheren Nomura was perhaps less suited to the ardent romantic music of Adam, but as Raphael he anchored the trio of soloists superbly at the low end. His warmly expressive yet firmly focused bass-baritone brought fine drama to the dark, opening recitative and Old Testament fury to “Rolling in foaming billows.”

Under their music director, the orchestra’s playing was terrific—bristling with energy and always responsive to the dynamic contrasts and Haydn’s impish musical onomatopoeia. Numerous instances abounded: the wispy eeriness of the string lines in the opening “Chaos” section and the radiant power of the opening up at “And God saw the light”; the wonderfully rich basses and cellos in “And God created great whales” and the gracious lilting avian woodwind lines.

The Music of the Baroque chorus has gone from strength to strength this season and Sunday night’s ensemble was likewise inspired. Enunciation could have been crisper at times, yet under chorus director William Jon Gray, the power and imagination of the singing came through magnificently. The singers tackled the awkward English text with polish and panache and the big choral moments proved thrilling under Glover’s direction.

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