The Creation, Haydn, Three Choirs Festival, Hereford Cathedral, 26/07/22, 4**** David Gray & Paul Gray

First performed as part of the Three Choirs Festival in Worcester Cathedral in 1800, Haydn’s The Creation has a long history of being enjoyed by festival audiences and one would like to think that this
performance harks back to that first one. The Musical and Amicable Society fielded an authentic
classical orchestra, and it is probable that in 1800, as now, voices would have been provided by the
Cathedral Choirs.

After a slightly tentative depiction of chaos, bass, David Stout immediately created a sense of
mystery and wonder, singing with a shimmering pianissimo during his opening recitative. The
chorus carried this atmosphere through into And the Spirit of God, to a thrilling orchestral explosion on
the word ‘Light.’ All boded well for a first-rate interpretation.

However, as things progressed, it started to seem that we were listening to two readings of the work
being performed simultaneously. On the one hand, the three soloists, the afore mentioned David Stout, tenor, Gwilym Bowen, and soprano, Joanne Lunn, delivered a detailed, subtle and thoughtful performance of the solo numbers. On the other, the Chorus were uniformly loud and performed rather rushed renditions of the choruses. After a while the frenzied fortissimos started to wear and, during The Lord is Great, what should have been exhilarating crescendos simply couldn’t happen because they had nowhere to go.

Things calmed down a bit when we got to the Garden of Eden. As Adam and Eve, Stout and Lunn
characterised beautifully and interacted together perfectly. It was like watching a semi-staged scene
from an opera. What’s more, they brought out the sensuality of the music and, in the final duet, a
real feeling of sexual anticipation. It brought to mind the duet between Papageno and Papagena
from Mozart’s Magic Flute; delightful, innocent but, at the end of the day: foreplay.

Their sensitivity seemed to seep through into the rest of the performance so we started to get some dynamic contrast and restraint in the choruses.

Ultimately this was an uplifting and joyful performance once you accepted that it was going to be a rather
loud and crashy choral version of The Creation, punctuated by inspired and technically brilliant solo singing.

The final chorus, Sing the Lord, which brought all the voices together, was such a wonderful explosion of
exuberant praise that anything else could be forgiven.

Joanne Lunn – Soprano
Gwilym Bowen – Tenor
David Stour – Baritone
Three Cathedral Choirs
Musical & Amicable Society
Geraint Bowen – Conductor

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