has been mercifully mild this year for which many of us are grateful,
and thankfully the month is almost behind us.. Before the month
concludes, I want to share my experience of the January 11, 2006
concert of Haydn’s Creation that celebrated the Centenary of
St. Paul Cathedral. Gilbert Levine conducted a chamber orchestra of
Pittsburgh Symphony musicians, the Mendelssohn Choir as well as
To quote from Levine’s program notes:
was born the idea of continuing this unity of music and spirit with the
“Concerts of Music for the Spirit” of which this evening’s performance
is only just the beginning. An idea that was born in Rome has truly
come to find the fertile ground in you city.”
Cathedral was packed. As seating was limited, many of the Mellon Grand
Classics subscribers missed it. Makeshift accommodations in front of
the church were cramped for the musicians, but they adjusted admirably.
The Cathedral looked magnificent, the Christmas decorations consisting
of simple in pine sprays with red bows adorning its many columns.
Creation is an extraordinary work. It is hard to realize that Mozart
had been dead for eight years before this work was first publicly
performed in 1799. Haydn’s bold use of orchestra color, exceptional
harmonic rhythmic and melodic inventiveness, and vivid musical
sensitivity to the text (consisting of the first verses of the Book of
Genesis with a little bit of Milton’s “Paradise Lost” thrown in) make
this piece operatic in its dramatic energy and thrust. For the angels,
Haydn adopts a somewhat florid, lofty style, while for Adam and Eve the
writing is more folk-like. There are wonderful images painted
throughout Haydn’s imaginative score including storm scenes, sunrise
music, and the noises of various animals and birds.
Cathedral’s acoustics were both a blessing and a curse. The orchestra
and soloists sounded magnificent in the reverberant space, but it was
impossible to understand a thing that was sung even though English
rather than the original German text was sung. It would have enhanced
the enjoyment of the piece had the text been included in the program.
Otherwise the performance was stunning. Soloists John Relyea, Janice
Chandler-Eteme and Stuart Neill were in magnificent voice even though
we missed so much of the content of what they were singing. The
Mendelssohn Choir and Pittsburgh Symphony performed with the excellence
to which we are accustomed.
Music for the Spirit series continues with Gilbert Levine conducting
Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 at Heinz Hall on June 24, 2006.