Haydn The Creation Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, Barbican Hall, London

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Haydn said – let there be enlightenment. And there was. The Creation is a loveable and audacious work and part of the problem with this well-drilled performance was that loveability was achieved at the expense of the audacity. Haydn's wondrous series of special effects failed to amuse or startle, while the succession of recitatives, arias, and choruses came and went offering pleasure but rarely astonishment.

René Jacobs and his very accomplished Freiburg Baroque Orchestra and RIAS Chamber Choir seemed loathe to temper their well-practised 18th-century manner with the requisite dash of rebelliousness; the choral singing was all too proper.

Haydn's daringly amorphous prelude began promisingly with stark unformed phrases and instrumental sonorities cut to the bone. But the chorus's great cry "Let there be light!" was hardly elemental, and it soon became clear that part of the problem with performing familiar works like this is that something is needed to rekindle our sense of a first-time experience.

Thomas Quasthoff did so with his first pronouncements as the archangel Raphael. He has a lieder singer's relish of story telling and created a modicum of awe with his gravely expectant descents below the stave.

Of course, it's impossible to resist this compendium of charming and guileless musical numbers, and when Adam and Eve finally did their business, the lovely soprano Julia Kleiter embellishing their closing duet with all manner of finely spun melismas, all seemed right with the world. But the creation of the world is a bigger idea and Jacobs simply didn't embrace it as Haydn did.