The motto of the 2022 Hamburg International Music Festival is »Nature« – and what could be more apt for the opening concert than Joseph Haydn's pioneering oratorio »The Creation«, with its song of praise for the creation of the Earth? There is hardly another work that expresses with such radiant joy and such love of detail Man's gratitude for his natural habitat.
At the same time, scarcely any other work shows how times have changed in the last 200 years. For the Lord's creation doesn't prompt humility and repentant contemplation nor critical reflection here, but rather unbridled joie de vivre at the beauty and practicality of the world we have been given.
Hamburg International Music Festival
28 April – 1 June 2022: In this International Music Festival the big Hamburg orchestras and top-level guests focus on the motto »Nature« for four weeks.
NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester
Christina Landshamer soprano
Benjamin Hulett tenor
Benjamin Appl baritone
conductor Alan Gilbert
Die Schöpfung / Oratorium für Soli, Chor und Orchester Hob. XXI:2
About the work
Ideal humanistic concept
Joseph Haydn's 1798 oratorio »The Creation« is a paradigm for the examination of nature in music. Entirely in the spirit of the Enlightenment, after the »horde of hellish ghosts» has »taken flight« right at the beginning, the new era is given over solely to order and reason. Man as the pride of creation is portrayed »with dignity and sovereignty« – there was no need at this time to waste any words on Man's ruthless treatment of his environment and concern for its preservation.
What Haydn's contemporaries perceived as an ideal humanistic concept, in the midst of a reality defined by indescribabale suffering on the Napoleonic battlefields, must give us even more food for thought today.
Timeless fresh music
Haydn's brilliant and inventive music remains unaffected by these considerations: with hymn-like angels' choruses, realistic (and occasionally witty) imitations of nature and exactly the right mixture of popular melodies and scholarly composition technique, the oratorio was a real hit at its premiere – and remains one to this day!