Boston Baroque - Haydn Creation - The Absolute Sound

The Creation opens with a five-minute orchestral "Representation of Chaos" that uses unstable harmonies and imaginative scorings unheard of at the time to depict the formless matter before God brings light and order to the void. In Martin Pearlman's hands, the music is as mind blowing now as it was to the first audiences in 1798. There are three world-class soloists on hand. Most notable is Kevin Deas, whose bronzed, commodious bass-baritone never acquires an edge even as he turns up the volume. The aria "Rollend in schäumanden Wellen" in Part 1 is a miracle of seamless, beautifully controlled picture painting, as the Archangel Raphael describes the creation of the lands and waters. Soprano Amanda Forsythe also has an appealing, expressive voice and Keith Jameson sound as if he's ready to sing Lohengrin, so confident and well supported is his lyrical tenor instrument. The chorus is small enough to respond alertly to every detail of text, rhythm, or harmony, but large enough to storm heaven at Haydn's life-affirming climaxes.

The recording, from Mechanics Hall in Worcester, Massachusetts, is superb. The multichannel mix is "discreet" but conservatively executed, and switching from the 5.0 program to stereo on the SACD doesn't cost much in atmosphere and bloom. As good as the SCAD sounds, the 24/192 Studio Master FLAC download is better-and actually a little cheaper than the two-SACD set. It's more dynamically nuanced and there's an extraordinary detail to vocal and instrumental sonorities. It's easier to tell that Kevin Deas is a much larger person than Amanda Forsythe when they sing their duet with chorus ("Von deiner Güt' o Herr und Gott") in Part III. The soundstage is wider, with more specific localization of the vocalists. If you're listening in stereo, the download's the way to go.

The Absolute Sound
01 March 2013