Orchestra Of The Age Of Enlightenment, Sir Simon Rattle NCH Dublin 4/5/14


The Creation – Joseph Haydn

Before I begin a little explanation about the musical terminology I may use here occasionally . Every time you see a word in red, you can click on it to get and explanation of what it means hopefully this will be helpful to you while reading this review.

If you have been following my blog you may have noticed I haven’t been to any concerts lately, I missed 2 in the last month alone! But last Sunday night I finally got a chance to see Sir Simon Rattle conducting a period instrument orchestra,  The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment  and their 34 strong choir. They were doing a very mini tour indeed, just Dublin and on Tuesday 6th London with the wonderful music Joseph Haydn and his oratorio  The Creation.

While in London in the early 1790′s Haydn heard a few of Handel’s oratorio’s so he decided to write one of his own. Written between 1796-98 Haydn takes his words from Book of Genesis and Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost. It’s certainly one of his greatest masterpieces of his late period. I  must admit I never listened to this music until a week before the concert, and hearing it live was a totally different experience than listening to a recording.

This is my third time seeing Mr. Rattle and second time the OAE, my last time with him also 2 years ago with Haydn and also Mozart. This time I wondered would I lose concentration during the work, but the way Rattle conducted the music the audience me included,were tranfixed from beginning to end!

It was a very packed stage with 3 soloists; soprano, tenor and bass. The 34 voice choir just about squeezed into the back, the orchestra was pretty large for the standards of the time with trombones, french horns and a very large countrabassoon!

As I said above there were three soloists : Sally Matthews soprano, who was a late substitute for another soprano who fell ill. She looked nervous, constantly reading the music when not singing but when she did she sang very well, with a clear tone her enunciation was not as clear as the others but her singing made up for it. John Mark Ainsley, a lyric tenor had a expressive voice which never strained too much. The star of the night for me was the bass Peter Rose , particularly good at enunciation. Soft and gentle one moment, loud and forceful in others but best moments were when he was describing the worm with a very low D! Also his love duet with Sally Matthews in the third section somewhat similar to Mozart. I know I have mentioned enunciation a few times here I had no problem in understanding what they were singing compared to some recordings I’ve heard.

We here in Ireland never have the pleasure of hearing a period instrument orchestra of the size playing such great skill and speed when needed and soft subtlety  also. The choir were the best choir I’ve heard there in a long time defying the size of only 34 singers. And of course it was all sown together by the brilliant conducting of Mr. Rattle!

All in all a great night, two observations that I made though, firstly during the first soprano solo audience members were coughing at a very quiet moment a bit too loudly, the maestro turned around to the audience and gave a fleeting glance of disapproval, and after that there was hardly a sound! At the end when everybody was giving a standing ovation the people next to me refused to get up and join in because there perceived notion that the woodwind made a blaring mistake in the first half? I encouraged them to get up to which they did!

Final thought, this concert stands up at the very top tier that I’ve been to over the years, Rattle with the Berlin Philharmonic,  Riccardo Chailly + Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and Daniel Barenboim and the Vienna Philharmonic.

Below is a very short video of the well deserved applause at the end.


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