Nov. 21, 2008
UI Symphony Orchestra and Choruses will present Haydn's 'Creation' Dec. 3
The University of Iowa Symphony Orchestra and Choruses will present Joseph Haydn's "The Creation," one of the greatest and most beloved works of the European choral tradition, at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 3, in the Main Lounge of the Iowa Memorial Union.
The performance, under the direction of Timothy Stalter from the UI School of Music faculty, will be free and open to the public. Student soloists for the performance will be Christine Robertson, soprano; Vivian Shotwell, mezzo-soprano; Juan Mendoza, tenor; and Ivo Suarez, bass.
Four choral ensembles from the School of Music will make up the combined chorus for the performance: the Women's Chorus, Scott Allison, conductor; University Choir, Timothy Stalter, conductor; Camerata, David Puderbaugh, conductor; and Kantorei, Timothy Stalter, conductor.
"The Creation" is one of the greatest success stories in the history of music. While many works that are admired today were flops at their first performances, "The Creation" was an instant success at its premiere, in a private performance for Viennese nobility in May of 1798. It was an even greater hit at its first public performance in Vienna a year later.
After its Viennese success, it was hailed as a universal masterpiece by audiences across Europe and in America, achieving immediate popularity wherever it was played. Performances of "The Creation" became an annual tradition in Vienna, making it the first major concert work with a continuous tradition of performance and popularity.
It was on his first visit to London in 1791 that Haydn received the inspiration for "The Creation." During the visit, he heard several of Handel's oratorios performed by huge choruses in Westminster Abbey. According to an early biographer of the composer, Haydn "meditated on every note and drew from those most learned scores the essence of true musical grandeur."
Haydn then decided to compose an oratorio of his own. When he left London and returned to Vienna, he took with him the book for "The Creation," a compilation of texts from Genesis and Psalms and Milton's "Paradise Lost." Back in Vienna, he arranged to have the English text translated into German by the Austrian Imperial Court Librarian, Baron Gottfried van Swieten.
Much of the libretto falls into groupings of recitative-aria-chorus for each day of the world's creation.
The text contributed many of the elements that have made the oratorio popular, with its opportunities for the musical descriptions of a sunrise and of animals from the merry lark to the nimble stag to the creeping worm, alongside great choral movements including "The Heavens are Telling" and "Achieved is the Glorious Work." And the opening portrayal of chaos sets the stage for one of the great dramatic strokes in music at the text, "And there was light."
"The Creation" is organized into three parts. Parts I and II describe the six days of the biblical creation while Part III, starting with a musical evocation of dawn, introduces Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden on the seventh day. A true work of the 18th-century Enlightenment, the libretto ends before Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden of Eden, with man as the crowning achievement of creation.
Stalter joined the UI faculty as director of choral activities in 1999. An active member of the American Choral Directors Association, he frequently presents clinics and workshops in choral conducting around the United States. He is also active as a tenor soloist specializing in the role of the Evangelist in the Passions of J.S. Bach and Heinrich Schuetz. For more information visit http://www.uiowa.edu/~music/bios/CONDstalter.htm.
The School of Music is part of the Division of Performing Arts in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Visit the UI School of Music Web site at http://www.uiowa.edu/~music/.
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