Fine soloists and choral singing lift Master Chorale’s incomplete “Creation”

By Lawrence Budmen

Haydn’s The Creation is one of the monuments of the choral literature. Based on the Book of Genesis and John Milton’s Paradise Lost, the oratorio abounds in some of the composer’s most noble, colorful and expressive music.

What was billed as a complete performance of this masterwork by the Master Chorale of South Florida Friday night at Trinity Cathedral in Miami proved to be something less. Joshua Habermann conducted Parts I and II of the score, a portrait of the six days of creation. The third section, depicting Adam and Eve’s first joyful hours in the Garden of Eden, was not presented. This was the equivalent of ending a performance of Handel’s Messiah with the Hallelujah Chorus and skipping the rest.

Still, there was much impressive music-making on display, particularly the strong solo and choral performances.

Since taking over the directorship of the Master Chorale two seasons ago, Habermann has greatly improved the group’s corporate vocal power. The male voices, once the choir’s weak point, now have greater heft and visceral impact. Habermann achieved a beautiful blending of the large group’s sonority, wedded to incisive declamation and strong control of dynamics. He led an elegantly crafted, felicitous performance of Haydn’s glorious score.

Ideally Haydn’s music requires a virtuosic instrumental ensemble to support the vocal forces and shine in the composer’s depiction of initial chaos and the emergence of nature, animals and, finally, man.

The Miami Symphony Orchestra is not quite in that league but the group was remarkably impressive despite the cathedral’s dull acoustic. Except for some brass blemishes in the second part, the playing was clearly articulated and stylish. Warm-toned strings and an outstanding solo flute were standouts. Habermann’s spacious shaping of the opening representation of chaos made the sudden burst of orchestral firepower at the first appearance of light all the more surprising.

Habermann fielded three outstanding vocalists in the narrative roles of the three angels. As Gabriel, Maria Jette’s light, agile soprano was a total delight. Her lovely voice has an attractive cutting edge which was perfect for Gabriel’s trumpeted arias.

Glenn Siebert’s strong lyric tenor brought subtlety as well as stentorian power to Uriel’s coloratura runs.  Jette and Siebert blended exquisitely in the lovely duet, From Thee, O Lord. Graham Fandrei, a member of Seraphic Fire, brought a deep bass voice to Raphael’s more grave pronouncements, and also proved nimble and precise in the Handelian coloratura of Rolling in foaming billows.

Habermann offered fine accompaniments to the arias and recitatives, stressing the music’s warmth and humanity. Still, despite the conductor’s beautifully sculpted phrasing and strong leadership, this Creation lacked that extra charge that yields true excitement. Haydn’s score came to vibrant life primarily in the jubilant final choruses of the two sections that were presented.

The Master Chorale repeats Haydn’s Creation 8 p.m. Saturday at Lynn University in Boca Raton and 4 p.m. Sunday at First Presbyterian Church in Pompano Beach. 954-418-6232,

Posted in Performances

One Response to “Fine soloists and choral singing lift Master Chorale’s incomplete “Creation””

  1. Posted Nov 23, 2010 at 9:00 pm by Barry Mintzer

    I attended the performance at the new Lynn University venue (excellent acoustics). It was a most enjoyable evening. I was also pleasantly surprised by the strength of the male voices in the chorus. Prior to the concert I listened The Creation sung in German under the direction of Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic. Both performances were wonderful

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Sat Nov 20, 2010
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