Music review: BBC SSO - The Creation

HAYDN'S oratorio The Creation is one of his supreme creations. A picturesque depiction of Chaos that preempts the likes of Berlioz, never mind Beethoven; a musical narrative rich and pungent, loaded with juicy imagery; a work that stretches the bounds of the Classical idiom to the point of bursting without defying the principles of its epoch.

Thomas Dausgaard PIC: Per Morten Abrahamsen/BBC/PA
Thomas Dausgaard PIC: Per Morten Abrahamsen/BBC/PA

BBC SSO: the Creation ***

City Halls, Glasgow

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There was much in Sunday’s performance by the BBC SSO and Edinburgh Festival Chorus, under Thomas Dausgaard, that recognised such far-reaching originality. The scene-setting overture was loaded with imaginative and deep-set colouration, as was that most evocative of extended recitatives dealing in graphic instrumental detail with the beasts of the Earth.

Dausgaard had truly reliable forces to help him, a crisp and vibrant chorus, an obliging and self-supportive SSO, and a trio of characterful soloists - soprano Rowan Pierce (replacing the advertised Elizabeth Watts), tenor James Gilchrist and bass Matthew Rose - who remained faithfully on message.

So why did it take until the short Part 3 - the Garden of Eden - for the performance to find genuine stability and an inexorable flow towards the triumphant final Amen?

Up to that point, the journey had been erratic, beautiful moments hijacked by uncertainties of attack and the wild wavering tempi of “The Heavens are Telling”. Dausgaard’s opulent gestures may have had poetic intentions, but they often failed to deliver such basics as a functional upbeat or instinctive balance check. This was a Creation full of good intentions, not all of which materialised convincingly.