The creation

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Domenico Zampieri : God admonishes Adam and Eve (around 1624; Musée de Grenoble )

The Creation is an oratorio by Joseph Haydn , 1732-1809, ( Hob. XXI: 2). The work was composed between 1796 and 1798 as the third of his four oratorios. It deals with the creation of the world as it is told in the first chapter of Genesis ( creation story of the priestly scriptures ). It follows the works of God mentioned there on days one to six, but instead of the seventh day it contemplates the first people in Paradise (the last five of 34 musical numbers).

Composition and premiere

During his visits to England in 1791-92 and 1794-95, Haydn was encouraged to compose a large oratorio when he heard the oratorios by George Frideric Handel in large cast. It is likely that he wanted to try to achieve similarly weighty results by using the musical language of the mature Viennese classical music .

Work on the oratorio lasted from October 1796 to April 1798. Haydn found his subject inspirational, and according to his own admission, the composition was a fundamental religious experience for him . He said to his biographer Georg August von Griesinger (1769–1845): “I was never as pious as during the time when I was working on creation; Every day I fell on my knees and asked God to give me the strength to do this work happily. ”He worked on the project to the point of exhaustion, and in fact he fell ill for a long time after the first performance. The costs, including a generous fee for the composer, were borne by an aristocratic association whose artistic director was Gottfried van Swieten .

The creation was first performed on April 29th and 30th, 1798 under the direction of the 66-year-old Haydn in the now defunct Schwarzenberg City Palace on the Neuer Markt in Vienna. These previews took place in front of a closed society, but they aroused such interest that - as Pieter Andriessen found - 30 gendarmes, including 18 mounted men, were seconded to keep the way to the Schwarzenberg'schen Palais clear. The traders on the Neuer Markt are said to have even dismantled their stands, for which each of them is said to have been compensated by Schwarzenberg with 10 guilders and 20 kreuzers. These performances allowed Haydn to make corrections in preparation for the public premiere . It took place on March 19, 1799 in the old Burgtheater . This performance of the approximately one-three-quarter hour work was also very successful. The evening was described in the memoirs of a Swedish musician as follows: “Between the sections there was a storm of applause. There was deathly silence during the sections. At the end of the performance, some shouted: 'We want Papa Haydn!' Finally the old man came on stage and was greeted loudly: 'Long live Papa Haydn! Long live the music! ' All the imperial majesties were present and shouted, along with the crowd: 'Bravo!' “The work was performed frequently in Vienna during Haydn's lifetime.

The text was then translated back into English. The English premiere took place in 1800 in London's Covent Garden . Haydn then authorized further translations, and the work was performed all over Europe. Since then, The Creation has been part of the classical repertoire worldwide with many performances and recordings to this day.


The creation , notice for the first public performance in the Burgtheater on March 19, 1799

The text of creation has a long history. The three sources are the Book of Genesis , the Book of Psalms, and John Milton's Genesis epic, Paradise Lost . The material was processed into an oratorio libretto by an otherwise unknown Lidley (or Linley) , which is said to have originally been intended for Handel. In any case, Handel never put it into music. Haydn's host in England, Johann Peter Salomon , came into possession of a copy of Lidley's libretto and passed it on to Haydn. When Haydn returned to Vienna, he gave it to his friend and patron Baron Gottfried van Swieten, who arranged for a German translation and an English back translation adapted to Haydn's music. The work was published in two languages ​​in 1800 and is still performed in both languages ​​today.

Van Swieten was evidently not fully fluent in English, and the English version of the libretto has given rise to criticism and various attempts at improvement. In fact, the back translation is so inadequate that the oratorio is sometimes performed in German in English-speaking countries.


The creation was composed for three vocal soloists ( soprano , tenor and bass ), four-part choir (soprano, alto , tenor and bass) and a large late classical orchestra , consisting of: three flutes , two oboes , two clarinets , two bassoons , a contrabassoon , two french horns , two trumpets , three trombones , timpani , and the usual string section with first and second violin , viola , cello , double bass .

A harpsichord performs the chordal execution of the basso continuo . Unlike in the post-romantic performance tradition, this accompanies all pieces: not only the recitatives , but also arias and choirs. A fortepiano is often used instead of a harpsichord in today's performances. However, this should hardly correspond to the Viennese customs at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries. In large-scale performances such as operas, oratorios and symphonies, the harpsichord was there for a long time as an instrument with a stronger tone and richer overtones. Even Mozart conducted the Magic Flute while playing the harpsichord.

There is little doubt that Haydn, by the standards of his time, wanted a large volume of sound. Between the first private performances and the world premiere, Haydn added further instrumental parts to the work. 120 instrumentalists and 60 singers were used for the premiere.

The three soloists represent archangels who narrate and comment on the six days of creation: Gabriel (soprano), Uriel (tenor) and Raphael (bass). In the third part, following Haydn's practice , the role of Adam is usually sung by the soloist who also sings Raphael, the same applies to Eva and Gabriel. However, some conductors prefer to fill the five roles with five soloists. Although there is also a passage for an alto soloist in Creation , this is limited to four amen in the final chorus.

The choir is used in a series of monumental choral passages, some of which celebrate the end of a day of creation. The orchestra often plays without vocal accompaniment, especially in tone painting episodes: the rising of the sun, the creation of various animals, and in the overture , the description of the chaos before creation.


Performance of the creation in 1808 in the ballroom of the old University of Vienna

The creation consists of three parts. As in other oratorios, the larger arias and choral movements are often preceded by short recitatives. The recitative mostly follows the wording of Genesis, while the following music takes up the biblical narrative in verse.


  • Gabriel (soprano)
  • Uriel (tenor)
  • Raphael (bass)
  • Eva (soprano)
  • Adam (bass)

There are two slightly different numbering for the components of the work.

part One

The first part celebrates the creation of light, earth, heavenly bodies, water, weather and plants.

No. 1a (1) The idea of ​​chaos
The slow-tempo overture in C minor is one of the most famous sections of the composition. Haydn describes the primal chaos by avoiding the cadence of the basic key until the end of the overture.
No. 1b (2) In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth
This sentence represents a setting of the course of action from Gen 1, 1–4  Lut . It begins with a recitative (Raphael) in C minor. After using the choir sotto voce in pianissimo and a pizzicato chord of the strings, the choir finds, with the words “And there was light”, a fortissimo in C major that is as powerful as it is surprising, which is then recorded by the orchestra and is impressively designed becomes. This central moment is a first indication of the normative content of the Enlightenment affirmed here ; a second is found at sunrise in no. 12 (13). The musical birth of light became a sensation at the public premiere. A friend of Haydn writes:
“The moment the light first appeared, you could tell that rays shot from the composer's shining eyes. The enchantment of the electrified Viennese was so general that the orchestra could not continue playing for a few minutes. "
With the following Bible verse “And God saw the light that it was good” as a recitative, the tenor (Uriel) leads over to:
No. 2 (3) Well before the holy rays vanished
Aria (Uriel) with choir in A major, in which the defeat of the hosts of Satan (after Paradise Lost ) is described.
- end of the first day -
No. 3 (4) And God made the firmament
Long recitative (Raphael) in C major after Gen 1,6-7  Lut . Then an orchestral sound painting describing the division of water and land and the first storms.
No. 4 (5) The miracle sees with astonishment
Solo (Gabriel) with choir in C major. The heavenly hosts praise God and the work of the second day.
- end of the second day -
No. 5 (6) And God said, Let the water gather up
Short recitative (Raphael, after Gen 1,9-10  Lut ), followed by:
No. 6 (7) Rolling in foamy waves
Aria in D minor (Raphael), describes the creation of the sea, mountains, rivers and (in a D major coda) streams with a decrescendo effect. As John Mangum explains, the stylistic inspiration here seems to come from a “revenge aria” from the opera buffa of the 18th century , such as in La vendetta from Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro .
No. 7 (8) And God said, Let the earth grow grass
Short recitative (Gabriel, after Gen 1,11  Lut ), followed by:
No. 8 (9) Now the hallway exploits the fresh green
Aria (Gabriel) in B flat major in Siciliano rhythm celebrating the creation of plants.
No. 9 (10) And the heavenly hosts proclaimed
Short recitative (Uriel), followed by:
No. 10 (11) Matches the strings
The choir celebrates the third day with a four-part fugue to the words "For he has clothed heaven and earth".
- end of the third day -
No. 11 (12) And God said, Let there be lights in the stronghold of heaven
Recitative (Uriel) with parts from Gen 1,14-16  Lut .
No. 12 (13) The sun is now rising in full splendor
The orchestra portrays - with the tenor (Uriel) as narrator - a brilliant sunrise and then a dull moonrise. The melody of the first sunrise consists of ten ascending tones taken from the D major scale, which are harmonized in many ways; the moonrise is also represented by an ascending scale passage, now following the subdominant G major. The end of the recitative alludes briefly to the newly created stars and then leads over to:
No. 13 (14) The heavens tell the glory of God
Trio and choir. The most powerful choir from creation . The words mostly come from Ps 19 : 1-3  Lut . The Heavens Tell is in C major, the central key of the first part. It begins with alternating solemn chorale passages and more meditative sequences by the three vocal soloists, followed by a chorale fugue to the words "And his hands work points to the firmament" and a final homophonic section. The astonishing intensity of the ending may be the result of the accumulation of different codes , each starting at a point where the music actually seems to have ended.
After the discoveries of Isaac Newton , especially the mathematical predictability of the movements of the heavenly bodies, Haydn's century attained a maximum of confidence in the existence of an ordered universe which, according to the conviction of contemporaries, confirmed divine wisdom. Haydn, who was a curious person, like an amateur interest in astronomy have had, especially as he did when he was in England, took the trouble to William Herschel , the former composer and discoverer of Uranus , in his observatory in Slough at Windsor to visit.
- end of the fourth day -

Part II

The second part celebrates the creation of fish, birds, cattle, and finally man.

No. 14 (15) And God said, Let there be water in abundance
Recitative (Gabriel, according to Gen 1,20  Lut ), then:
No. 15 (16) The eagle swings proudly on a strong wing
Aria (Gabriel) in F major for the creation of the birds. The species mentioned are the eagle , the lark , the dove and the nightingale . The lyrics contain the assertion that in the time immediately after the creation, the nightingale's song was not melancholy.
No. 16 (17) And God created great whales
Recitative (Raphael) in D minor. It is a recitative (according to Gen 1,21-22  Lut ) followed by a short aria, the latter a rhyming paraphrase of the biblical words “Be fruitful and multiply”. The gloomy accompaniment manages without violins, only uses the lower strings with split violas and cellos.
Haydn's music comes from a suggestion by van Swieten to have the bass soloist sing this text along an unadorned bass line. Haydn only partially followed the suggestion, adding a layer of four-part harmonies from cello and viola.
No. 17 (18) And the angels touched their immortal harps
Short recitative (Raphael).
No. 18 (19a) Stand in gracious grace
Trio in A major. Haydn breaks the regularity of the pattern “recitative elaboration only for solo” with a thoughtful passage for the three singers who contemplate the beauty and richness of the newly created world. Without transition it follows:
No. 19 (19b) The Lord is great in his power
Choir with the three soloists, in A major for the fifth day.
- end of the fifth day -
No. 20 (20) And God said, Let the earth bring forth living creatures
Recitative (Raphael, after Gen 1,24  Lut ), then:
No. 21 (21) The earth's womb is about to open
A sound painting with a narrative bass (Raphael). Haydns introduces the newly created creatures with a humorous background: lion , tiger , deer , horse , cattle , sheep , insects and worms . As always with Haydn's tone painting in this oratorio, the sung explanations follow the orchestra portrait. The transition from the stately beasts (the first four) to the lower (the last four) is marked by an unprepared modulation from D flat to A major. The tame animals are shown in a Sicilian rhythm, which (not only) for Haydn stands for a rural idyll.
No. 22 (22) Now the sky shines in full splendor
Aria (Raphael) in D major. The topic is:

But everything was not finished yet.
The whole thing was missing the creature
That should see God's works gratefully and
praise the Lord's goodness.

This sentence is the preparation for the creation of man.
The first part of this movement contains another tone painting, a fortissimo in octaves for trombone, contrabassoon and contrabass to the words "the floor presses the animals' burden".
No. 23 (23) And God created man
Recitative (Uriel, after Gen 1.27  Lut , 2.7 Lut ), then:
No. 24 (24) Done with dignity and majesty
A brilliant aria (Uriel) in C major celebrating the creation of man, then woman, often sung outside of creation . Although the aria tells a biblical story, the virtues ascribed to Adam (and not Eve) reflect the values ​​of the Enlightenment .
No. 25 (25) And God saw every thing
Short recitative (Raphael; the text extends Gen 1,31  Lut ), followed by:
No. 26 (26a) The great work is completed
Choral movement in B flat on the sixth day.
No. 27 (26b) To you, O Lord, everything looks up
Another meditation for the three archangels (trio), this time in E flat major, on God's omnipotence and goodness, according to Ps 145 : 15-16  Lut . Immediately afterwards:
No. 28 (26c) The great work is completed
This chorus begins with the same words and notes as # 26 and in the same key (B). He quickly changes to a large double fugue to the words "All praise his name, because he alone is exalted". In keeping with the finale of Part II, this repeated choral movement is longer and more intense than the first.

The last three parts of the second part - with two choir movements on an identical theme, flanking a slower, meditative movement - follows the pattern of countless settings from the Latin Mass, in which two similar or identical choirs usually respond to the words "Hosanna in excelsis" frame a meditative part of “Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini”.

Part III

The third part takes place in the Garden of Eden and tells the happy first hours of Adam and Eve.

No. 29 (27) Breaking out of rose clouds
Slow-paced orchestral prelude describing dawn in the Garden of Eden, followed by a recitative for Uriel. Adam and Eve go hand in hand.
The key is E major, very different from the keys that have dominated so far. Various commentators think that Haydn's intention was to convey the distance between heaven and earth, or to contrast the sinfulness of man with the perfection of the angels.
No. 30 (28) Of your goodness, O Lord and God
Adam and Eve say a prayer of thanks in C major, accompanied by a choir of angels.
This sentence, the longest in creation , has three parts. In the first, an Adagio , Adam and Eve sing their prayer, accompanied by the choir and gently rolling kettledrums. In the second section, the pace accelerates and Adam, Eve and the angels extol the newly created world. The last section is for choir and orchestra alone, a chant to the words “We praise you in eternity”.
No. 31 (29) Now the first duty is fulfilled
Recitative for Adam, then:
No. 32 (30) Dear wife, by your side
Love duet for Adam and Eve in E flat major with a slow introduction followed by an Allegro . The style is clearly influenced by the opera , and some commentators have seen a parallel between Adam and Eve and the characters Papageno and Papagena from Mozart's Magic Flute .
No. 33 (31) O happy couple, and happy forever
Uriel briefly explains to the couple that as long as they refrain from having or wanting to know more than they should, they will always be happy. A dark premonition of the later fall.
No. 34 (32) Sing to the Lord all voices!
Final chorus in B flat major: a slow introduction, followed by a double fugue to the words "The Lord's fame, he will stay in eternity", with passages for the soloists and a final homophonic section.


“The pleasure of experiencing Haydn and van Swieten's Die Schichtung lies less in the inevitable trajectory of the plot - we all know the story, and it contains no real sense of conflict - than in the wide-eyed wonder with which the composer visits its familiar contours. A childlike quality pervades the work, as if Haydn were relating the narrative to young listeners who had never heard it before. "

“The joy of experiencing the creation of Haydn and van Swieten lies less in the inevitable course of the plot - we all know it, and it does not contain any real conflict material - than in how the composer works on the familiar with amazed eyes. A childlike quality permeates the work, as if Haydn were telling the story to young listeners whom they have never heard before. "

- James Keller

“The 'creation' and the ' seasons' paint the universe as Haydn knew it. The simplicity imposed by the pastoral style was the prerequisite for objects of such grandeur to be touched at all. Without the fiction of naivety in the deepest sense, as the spontaneous and unaffected reaction of the child's eye to the world, these works could not even exist. "

- Charles Rosen : The Classic Style 1971


A revision of Andreas Spörri and Thomas Rüedi for three solo voices , choir and Brass Band saw on 19 July 2006 as part of the Thurn-und-Taxis-Palace Festival in Regensburg its world premiere . The performers were the Regensburger Domspatzen and the Swiss Army Brass Band under the direction of Spörri. The work was also performed several times in Switzerland as part of a tour.


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Georg August Griesinger. Biographical Notes on Joseph Haydn . Breitkopf & Härtel, Leipzig 1810.
  2. John Mangum: The Creation. (No longer available online.) Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, archived from the original on September 19, 2015 ; Retrieved October 3, 2012 . Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  3. James M. Keller: Joseph Haydn, The Creation, Hob.XXI: 2. Notes on the program. (PDF, 254 kB) New York Philharmonic Orchestra, January 21, 2004, archived from the original on March 26, 2004 ; accessed on October 3, 2012 .
  4. Charles Rosen: The Classic Style. Bärenreiter, Kassel 1983, ISBN 3-7618-1235-3 , p. 423
  5. ^ Haydn's “Creation” as a brass band play , Neue Zürcher Zeitung , October 9, 2006
  6. Domspatzen in the cathedral ( memento from January 29, 2018 in the Internet Archive ) , St. Galler Tagblatt , October 14, 2006