The Bloomington Chamber Singers, under the direction of Musical Director Gerald Sousa, will present Haydn’s masterpiece, The Creation. A work of incomparable beauty and a personal statement of Haydn’s deeply religious faith, it reflects a belief in a world that is full of wonder and of a God who created life to be cherished and revered. There are few works in the repertoire that are as cheerful and optimistic as Haydn’s Creation—and from it performers and listeners alike draw joy, inspiration, and meaning.
During his first visit to London in 1791-92, Haydn attended the annual Handel commemoration in Westminster Abbey where he heard over a thousand performers sing Handel’s Messiah and Israel in Egypt. He was transformed by what he heard in Handel’s music, particularly the musical depictions in Israel in Egypt of the buzzing flies, hopping frogs, and violent hailstorms. Over the next few years he became increasingly drawn to composing a work on a similar Biblical scope. It was on his return to England in 1795 that the impresario Johann Solomon handed him a libretto that had been among Handel’s effects at his death. That text, most likely by one of Handel’s authors, combined passages from Genesis and the Psalms with a smattering of Milton’s Paradise Lost into an epic retelling of the story of creation. Haydn was immediately drawn to it, and composed the oratorio between 1797 and 1798, setting it to a German version prepared by his collaborator, Baron Gottfried van Swieten.
The first public performance was held in Vienna in 1799 and was a remarkable success. The Creation was performed more than forty times in Vienna during Haydn’s lifetime: in addition, performances were mounted throughout Austria, Germany, and England, in Switzerland, Italy, Sweden, Spain, Russia and the United States.
The oratorio is structured in three parts. The first deals with the creation of light, of heaven and earth, of the sun and moon, of the land and water, and of plants. The second treats the creation of the animals, and of man and woman. The final part describes Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, portraying an idealized love in harmony with the “new world.”
BCS last performed the work in 1990; it was Music Director Gerald Sousa’s first major concert with the ensemble that he has now led for 26 years. The work will be performed in German, and lasts approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes. There will be one intermission.