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Joyful Performance of Haydn’s ‘Creation’

The famed orchestral pictorialism and the pious libretto of “The Creation” can sound naive today, but somehow it still seems fresh and simple rather than quaint and simplistic. Haydn’s oratorio holds its own with audiences and singers alike through its sincerity and sheer joyousness, particularly in readings as robust as Paul Salamunovich’s with Los Angeles Master Chorale forces, Sunday afternoon at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

Salamunovich allowed the score its sense of humble wonder, with an interpretation that focused on the poles of narrative honesty and rhetorical praise. He kept the pace alert to the urgency and the spaciousness required for musical storytelling and held nothing back in the choral climaxes.

The chorus on this occasion numbered 48, but it was a big-sounding 48, singing the English version with great verve. The clarity of both text and textures was founded on rhythmic acuity, nimble enough for contrapuntal give-and-take and grounded enough for impressive massed power.

The spirited soloists proved exceptionally well-matched and understandable. Soprano Susan Montgomery soared with fluid purity and point as the angel Gabriel and as Eve, tenor Christopher Cock brought clarion fervor and expressive inflection to the angel Uriel, and bass Charles Austin--a late substitute for an indisposed Kevin Bell--covered the wide-ranging challenges of the angel Raphael and Adam with dramatic conviction and canny vocal color.

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“The Creation” requires far more than just accompaniment from its orchestra, and the Sinfonia Orchestra was an active and effective partner for the singers. Warm and balanced in sound and consistent in articulation, it played with welcome zest.

Informed but not abashed by period practice verities, Salamunovich led a stylistically pragmatic but exuberantly communicative performance that promises to linger in the audience’s memory.


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