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Both the Riccardo Muti and Leonard Bernstein performances of Haydn's masterwork The Creation are outstanding; those who prefer the historically-informed approach with a classical sized orchestra will love the Muti performance- which is also better recorded in my opinion, much more resonance- but Bernstein's more "romantic" and slightly old-fashioned approach works just fine as well and has luxury casting to boot. The venue is opulent and inviting and the whole performance is beautifully shot, with an approach that is not only both cinematic and intimate but very acknowledging to the performers too. The orchestra play with a most luscious sound and have plenty of depth and style, they do exciting and sensitive equally well. The chorus are involved and judging from their confident and vibrant-sounding singing and taut ensemble seemed very well rehearsed, that is especially apparent in the first part.
Bernstein's conducting is quite possibly the best thing about this performance, remarkable for late-career Bernstein, and is even better than Muti's surprisingly great conducting. He conducts the score with so much love and it has a lot of energy and masculinity too without ever resorting to emotional excess, even watching him on the podium is exciting enough. You'd think from his recordings and performances of Mahler and other large-scale works that he'd seem an unlikely choice for a piece of such a different style, but actually in my opinion he was one of the best Haydn conductors out there.
All the soloists are on top form, especially Lucia Popp whose silvery timbre sounds so radiant and never strained and she characterises beautifully. Judith Blegen's tone is also bright and brightly-coloured and also rich in places, the vibrato never excessive or too straight(both of which for me would sound wrong in Haydn). Kurt Moll sings with his usual warmth and sonority, Kurt Ollman sings with much vigour and adapts to the style very well and Thomas Moser while coming off the least impressively(only because the standard of the solo singing is so high here) still gives one of his better vocal performances, I've known him to sound dry and strained before but he is neither here. All in all, a classic performance and goes perfectly with that with Muti. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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