Miah Persson · Topi Lehtipuu · David Wilson-Johnson
Mozarteum Orchestra Salzburg · Ivor Bolton, conductor
Ivor Bolton and the Mozarteum Orchestra Salzburg: a major player, especially for interpretations of music from the classical epoch. After releasing a highly praised “Seasons”, Haydn’s oratorio “The Creation” now follows. Swedish soprano Miah Persson and British bass-baritone David Wilson-Johnson are again among the soloists, supplemented by Finnish tenor Topi Lehtipuu. Under the direction of Ivor Bolton, who was trained in historical performance practice, the Mozarteum Orchestra has developed a style that unites the brilliance of the modern sound with the artistic phrasing and flexibility of historic ensembles. In this recording, the brass play historic instruments.
The Swedish soprano Miah Persson recieved her education at the University College of Opera in Stockholm, where she is a member of te Royal Opera and has been heard in roles such as Susanna, Pamina, Sophie, Gretel, and Dorinda in Handel’s Orlando.
She made her European debut in Scarlatti’s Griselda at the Berlin Staatsoper and has since appeared at the Vienna Staatsoper, the Palais Garnier and Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, the Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels, in Frankfurt, Innsbruck, and at the Aix-en-Provence Festival. Her concert repertoire reaches from Bach to Mozart, Mahler, and Britten. Ms. Persson
has collaborated with conductors including
Pierre Boulez, Daniel Barenboim, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Philippe Herreweghe, René Jacobs, and Ivor Bolton. She can be heard on CD in a recital of Swedish songs (with Roger Vignoles), as Almirena in Handel’s Rinaldo with René Jacobs, and on a recording of Haydn’s Jahreszeiten under the baton of Ivor Bolton. She first appeared at the Salzburg Festival
in 2003 when she sang in Mahler’s Fourth Symphony with the Vienna Philharmonic under Pierre Boulez. She returned a year later as Sophie
in Der Rosenkavalier, and in 2005 as Sifare in Mozart’s Mitridate. Earlier this year she made her debuts at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro) and at the Glyndebourne
Festival (Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte).
Tenor Topi Lehtipuu, born in Finland, resident in Paris, studied piano and violin at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki and later choral directing and singing. Among his teachers were Peter Lindroos and Howard Crook. He made his stage debut in the title role of Britten’s Albert Herring and then appeared
as Tamino in Die Zauberflöte at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris. The major Mozart tenor roles are now a central part of his repertoire, as well as the works of Monteverdi, Rameau, and Handel. In addition, Mr. Lehtipuu has sung Hylas in Berlioz’s Les Troyens (conductor: Sir John Eliot Gardiner) and was heard in the world premiere of Peter Eötvös’s Angels in America (Paris, 2004). The tenor is active on the early-music scene, working under the batons of René Jacobs at the Innsbruck Early Music Festival and the Berlin Staatsoper Unter den Linden; of William Christie in Rameau’s Les Paladins at the Châtelet in Paris; and of Christophe
Rousset in period performances of Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail. Mr. Lehtipuu has also collaborated with Sir Simon Rattle and with Esa-Pekka Salonen in their projects in Berlin and Los Angeles, respectively. In 2006 Mr. Lehtipuu appeared
as Ferrando in Così fan tutte at the Glyndebourne
Festival; in 2007 he returns to the Paris Opera in Handel’s Ariodante.
The British baritone studied languages at Cambridge
and voice at the Royal Academy in London.
He has regularly appeared in the world’s major
opera houses, at the most renowned festivals and with the best orchestras in the world during the course of his almost 30-year career. He has sung under conductors such as Pierre Boulez, Carlo Maria Giulini, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Zubin Mehta or Sir Simon Rattle. His multifaceted opera repertoire ranges from Rameau to Mozart, from Wagner to Britten and Henze; he has performed in London, Paris, Amsterdam, Madrid and at the Salzburg Festival (Les Boreades), etc. He was also featured in the title role of the television production
of Messiaen’s Saint François d’Assise.
His extensive discography includes modern popular music as well as Bach, Beethoven, Stra-vinsky, Schönberg, or Schubert’s Winterreise. David Wilson-Johnson teaches at the Dordogne Summer School which he himself founded 20 years ago.
The Salzburger Bachchor has established itself as an integral part of Austrian musical life. Its repertoire embraces, above all, the great choral works of the Baroque and Classical eras: by Bach and Handel, Haydn, and Mozart, as well as compositions of the Romantic era and the 20th century, and a cappella works. A vital component of the chorus’s activity is its dedication
to the works of Salzburg composers such as Johann Michael Haydn and Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber. In addition to appearances at concerts of the Salzburg Bach Society, the International Mozart Week, and the Salzburg Jazz Festival (with the Dave Brubeck Quartet), the ensemble has made guest appearances at the Halle Handel Festival, the Baden-Baden Whitsun Festival, the Innsbruck Early Music Festival, and the Köthen Bach Days. In recent years the Bachchor has developed a close relationship with the Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra, and has also been heard with the Vienna Philharmonic under conductors Sir Charles Mackerras and Leopold Hager, and with the Salzburg Camerata under Sir Roger Norrington. During the past summers the Bachchor
appeared in Salzburg Festival concerts conducted by Marc Minkowski and Ivor Bolton. The chorus, which has been directed since 2003 by Alois Glaßner, has numerous CD recordings
to its credit, including recent releases of Joseph Haydn’s The Seasons and the Requiem by Michael Haydn, both conducted by Ivor Bolton.
Alois Glaßner received his initial musical training at the Melk Abbey School, followed by studies in church music, organ, conducting, composition, and singing at the Vienna Music University. Studies
with choral director Eric Ericson in Stockholm in 1989/90, followed by a further period of choral study in London strenghthened his resolve to become a choral director himself. To this end, he founded in 1987 the Hugo Distler Chorus which in the ten years of its existence won numerous competitions and appeared in the major concert halls. In 1997 Mr. Glaßner brought into being a smaller ensemble, Cosa vocale Wien, dedicated to the presentation of contemporary and early music. Since 1991 Mr. Glaßner has held a professorship at the Vienna Music University, where he instructs teachers in the finer points of choral and ensemble singing and where he directs the Webern Chamber Chorus. To these responsibilities he added, in 1997, teaching at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, and in 2003 he became
Artistic Director of the Salzburg Bach Chorus. An important aspect of his activities have been the Sunday masses at the Augustinerkirche in Vienna, which he directed and conducted from 1993 to February
Joseph Haydn: “The Creation”
Joseph Haydn’s oratories The Creation and The Four Seasons were created primarily due to Haydn’s encounter with the grand tradition
of the English oratories. During his first sojourn
in England he had been deeply impressed by the four concerts of the “Commemoration of Handel”, which boasted more than a thousand participants and was performed in May and June of 1791 at the Westminster Abbey in London. It appears certain that Haydn brought an English text to an oratory treating the theme of creation back to Vienna from his second trip to England in 1794/1795; if this libretto – as some have claimed – was originally intended for Handel is unproven. Baron Gottfried van Swieten, the Prefect of the
Emperor’s Court Library and a devote fan of music
(not to be confused with his father, the doctor of Maria Theresia), provided the great service of translating the libretto at Haydn’s request and bringing it into a form suitable for musical composition.
He made use of the Book of Genesis in the Bible, John Milton’s epos Paradise Lost as well as the biblical Book of Psalms.
Van Swieten based his decision to divide the work into three parts on the original text. Thereby the first part treated the first through fourth days of the story of creation, the second part treated the fifth and sixth days, and the last part portrayed
Adam and Eve in Paradise. Exempted from this portrayal was the expulsion from paradise, which is only mentioned as a warning in the final recitative of the Archangel Uriel.
But inside of this scheme we can make out a balanced order of parts. In the first two parts, one or more observational arias follow each biblical story; every day of creation (except for the first) is concluded with a chorus, which are often supplemented
by soloists. As such, the Archangels Gabriel (soprano), Uriel (tenor) and Raphael (bass) make appearances, assume the role of the narrator in the recitatives and take part in the arias. In the third part, two duets of Adam (bass) and Eve (soprano)
are framed by two of Uriel’s recitatives, one of which we have already mentioned. The farewell takes the form of a hymnal choir of thanks.
A noteworthy aspect of the libretto is the numerous
depictions of nature, which provide the composer with the most diverse opportunities to release his creative genius and imagination. The long list of such beautiful moments begins with the introduction, entitled “The Representation of Chaos”: 59 tacts of apparently formless swinging harmonics and tangled motifs relentlessly evoke the impression of a pitiless wasteland. Then, breaking into the almost unbearable tension comes the overwhelming C-major jubilation of “Let there be light” and the flight of the spirits of hell into the abyss; lightning and thunder, rain and snow, the crashing ocean, the softly murmuring brook, the sunrise, the chirping of birds, the depiction
of the animals – it is impossible to list all of these precisely composed (and often humorous) images. But a small orchestral revolution must be mentioned: the use of three (rather than the usual two) flutes at the beginning of the third part of the depiction of the “young and beautiful” morning – only in the era of the Romantic would the use of triple woodwinds become commonplace.
Of course, these are all merely formalities, but if Haydn had not been able to weave them into the tapestry of the whole with a superior sense of mastery, then the blossoming, uncompromisingly
touching melodic inventions in the arias and ensembles, the masterful counterpoints and the radiance of the chorus would not have been possible; imbedded in the sensuous dramaturgy of the contrast of tempo and, not to forget, the chosen keys. All of these are characteristics that make the work, over 200 years old, as fresh and as lively as it was on the very first day.
The composition of the piece can be assumed to have spanned from December 1796 until the Spring of 1798. The 65 year old maestro was sorely taxed by his labours. His famous statement
does not speak against this: “I was never as pious as during the time in which I worked on the “Creation”. Every day I fell to my knees and prayed to God that he give me the strength to bring this work to a happy end.”
His work was sponsored, as we term it today, by the Society of Associated Knights, to which the entire Austrian upper nobility belonged and that regularly held musical academies. They provided
the sizable sum of 500 ducats as payment for Haydn’s oratory and assumed the costs of the first two performances, which took place on the 29th and 30th of April 1798 in the (today no longer extant) Palais Schwarzenberg am Neuen Markt in Vienna. On the 19th of March the following year, the first public performance took place at the old Burgtheater am Michaelerplatz; Haydn conducted,
Antonio Salieri played the piano. The theater was already filled at midday; 18 mounted police and twelve footmen were needed to keep the approach
of the wagons and buggies orderly.
Joseph Richter’s “Letters of an Eipeldauer to his Cousin in Kagran” is a humorous mirror of an entire epoch, wherein he reports that “I wouldn’t have believed it for my life, that the human bellows
and the sheep’s guts and the calf’s skin could provoke such wonder. The music alone expressed thunder and lightning, and there your cousin heard the pouring of rain and the rush of water, and the birds truly sung, and the lion roared, and you could even hear how the worms crawled over the earth. In short, cousin, I have never before left a theater more pleased, and I dreamt of the creation of the world the whole night through…”
Translation: Maurice Sprague