News Music Critic
Hayden’s “The Creation” was a good programming choice by Harriet Simons for what turns out to be one of the UB music departments major effects of the academic year.
Not only is it one of the great choral masterpieces that doesn’t get as many performances as it deserves, it was also written in 1797, which makes this wholly fitting 200th anniversary event.
Care in preparation was evident everywhere, as the performance infolded with a clear sense of purpose and destination, if occasionally a more dutiful than inspired unfolding of the lyrical phrases and longer lines.
As with the other aspects of the performance, the chorus was good from the start but gained strength as the two-hour-plus concert progressed. The famous sudden fortissimo on “And there was light” could have been stronger and with a crisper release, and in “The heavens are telling,” the energetic, full-throated sound has a bit too much soprano prominence.
But by the time “Achieved is the glorious work” came around, the chorus sang with a great élan that was quite infectious, while “Sing for Lord” made a grand ending for the oratorio, ecstatically pealing yet still in very good balance.
The U of Buffalo Symphony was prepared for this combined effort under Simons’ baton by its music director Magnus Martensson. They were at their best in the wonderful purely orchestral depiction of sunrise in Part 1. Its rising of resolved dissonance came across quite mystically and thrillingly. This made up for the perfunctory opening representation of chaos. Later there were many instances of outstanding playing by the individual sections, as in the flutes’ marvelously soft, pellucid tone in the Morning Scene that opens Part 3.
With the soloists, the results were mixed.
Soprano Teresa Williams as Gabriel and Eve sang with an easy mobility, good support especially in melismatic phrases and a tight, flickering vibrato that tended to camouflage what sounded like a basically pure, sweet tone quality and secure intonation
Tenor Jeffery Halili as Urial sang with the cleanest projection of all, a nicely focused sound that was on the thin and nasal side, and a well-supported feeling for that longer lines. There was a warm earnestness about his delivery, but his diction was muted
Bass J. Robert Adams as Raphael and Adam also got stronger progressively, partially atoning for a very shaky start, with uncertain focus and intonation, wobbly support and diction that was none too clean. He seemed at his best in the lower end of his range and in quieter passages. By the close of Part 2, Adams was very impressive in “Thou tak’st their breath away” section of the Trio, and in the extended duet with Eve in Part 3, he reached a very comfortable level of security