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Return to Genesis: Cayuga Chamber to Perform ‘Creation’

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Posted: Wednesday, March 26, 2014 12:00 am

The Cayuga Chamber Orchestra, under the leadership of music director Lanfranco Marcelletti, will present Haydn’s grand choral achievement, The Creation, on Saturday, March 29, at 8 p.m. in Ford Hall. Joining the orchestra are the Ithaca College Choir of forty-eight voices prepared by Janet Galván, and soprano Joanna Manring, tenor Nathaniel McEwen, and bass Marc Webster. This concert, for many the highlight of a season dedicated to the earth and the natural beauty around us, opens with the third Composer Showcase piece, “Genius Loci-Spirit of Place,” by Ingrid Stölzel. Marcelletti presents a pre-concert chat at 7:15.

The Creation had its first public performance in March 1799 in Vienna’s Burgtheater. A huge success, it had performances all over Europe and has continued to bring forth enthusiastic response ever since. Haydn started out with an English text supplied by the impresario Salomon during the composer’s second London visit, but after returning to Vienna, he gave the material to Baron van Swieten, director of the imperial library and esteemed poet, composer, and patron of the arts. The English text, with which Haydn was not comfortable, was shortened and translated into German. The composer devoted well over a year to the composition and conducted the first private performance in April 1798.

Haydn’s Creation is one of the world’s choral masterworks. With words compiled from the Book of Genesis and Milton’s Paradise Lost, Parts I and II describe God’s creation of land and sea, birds and fishes, animals large and small, and, finally, human beings, all in six days. Part III, with no biblical text, describes the still-innocent bliss of Adam and Eve and, with exceptionally beautiful music, is rich in praise of the Almighty.

The total work has spaciousness and grandeur of concept and design, with an amazing variety of ideas and feelings, ranging from the gently humorous to the deeply intense and dark. The opening, which Haydn called the “Representation of Chaos,” is widely praised as his greatest achievement in orchestral music and is astounding in its originality, modernity, and creative sense of wonder. It then moves—with the composer’s propensity for surprises—from darkness to light.

In this performance, to be sung in German, the soprano, tenor, and bass soloists, replacing the more traditional evangelist or single narrator, sing the parts of the archangels Gabriel, Uriel, and Raphael, respectively. In accordance with Haydn’s early performances, the bass and soprano also have the roles of Adam and Eve. All three were soloists last April in the CCO’s performance of Schubert’s Mass in C major.

Maestro Marcelletti, who feels a deep kinship with Haydn and his work—confessing that he has fantasized about recording all the symphonies with the CCO—loves The Creation. “It’s been a dream to do the piece for a long time.” He grew up with it, he said, and although he has presented several parts, he has never conducted the complete work, adding, “I want the audience to experience the whole creation with me.” As he always heard recordings and saw performances in German, he wanted to perform it in Haydn’s language. He feels this great choral work is perfect as “we celebrate the earth year.”

The Composers Showcase piece, “Genius Loci-Spirit of Place,” promises to be a thoughtful prelude to the choral work. The composer Ingrid Stölzel came to this country in 1991 from her native Germany. She grew up in the northern section of the Black Forest, with very high hills and dark pine trees next to the Rhine valley. Today her home is in the “wide spaces” in Kansas, as she is director of the International Center for Music at Park University on the edge of Kansas City. “They are such different places,” she says, but both are inspiring and have great meaning for her. Already a prize winner, she is very happy to be invited here, to hear her work performed by a chamber orchestra. Her composition is about the “feeling we get when we’ve gone somewhere but then return to a favorite place.” It is a piece of tension and release, with a sense of transformation at the end. She is “so pleased to be programmed with Haydn’s Creation.” As her work is intimate and introspective, it makes a good introduction, she says, “a time to reflect.” 

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