Symphony Preview: Present at the Creation
- Written by Gary Scott
Handel's 1741 oratorio "The Messiah" had a profound impact on many people. It inspired the young Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) to write the work the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and Chorus performs this weekend (October 26 and 27).
The enormity and grandeur of "The Messiah" not only moved the King of England to rise to his feet, but it also sparked the creative flow inside Haydn to create a massive oratorio of his own. But being true to his ever-witty and sanguine nature, Haydn chose to birth a work that expressed the joy and glory of the very act of divine imagination, "The Creation," inspired by the Genesis story of God breathing the universe into life.
The Saint Louis Symphony Chorus, directed by Amy Kaiser, will join forces with the SLSO, soloists Yulia Van Doren, soprano, Robin Tritschler, tenor, and Douglas Williams, bass-baritone, all under the baton of Saint Louis favorite Nicholas McGegan, to mount a presentation of Haydn's masterpiece composed at the age of 65, on the cusp of a new century as the 1700s gave way to a new century of changes: industrialization, political upheaval and the revolutionary embrace of Romanticism within the arts.
Amy Kaiser is quick to note, however, that "The Creation" is not about the upheaval of Haydn's era, but rather it is a "profoundly joyful" work, enunciating the resilience of life and even its humor. Never one to play the tormented genius, Haydn was a working composer diligent in his day-to-day affairs, content to observe life and translate it into artistic terms, and to do so continually. His persistence and evenness paid off handsomely. Despite his humble beginnings and an early life in the shadow of the nobility and powerful clergy, as well as a difficult marriage, Haydn acquired wealth, accolades across the Western world and a long life in which to enjoy his success.
Kaiser also noted the power of choral music to unite with instrumental music and deepen its message. A bit later, but perhaps inspired by the great works that preceded him, Beethoven recognized the power of choral music when he added the chorus to the orchestral symphonic structure for the very first time in his Ninth Symphony.
Building a world-class chorus worthy of performing with a world-class orchestra is a task that Amy Kaiser has executed brilliantly and beautifully throughout her tenure in Saint Louis. Under her leadership, the Saint Louis Symphony Chorus has burgeoned beyond all expectations into a formidable artistic force that continues to enrich not only the life of our community. This comes at a time when our world needs the power and life-giving energy of music perhaps more than ever.
The Essentials: Nicholas McGegan conducts the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, Chorus, and vocal soloists in a performance of Haydn's oratorio The Creation on Saturday at 8 pm and Sunday at 3 pm, October 27 and 28. The performances take place at Powell Hall in Grand Center.