With the Higgs-Boson “God-Particle” a hot talking-point at the moment, Haydn’s ‘Creation’ proved a timely re-entry into the argument at Saturday’s opening Hereford Cathedral concert in this year’s Three Choirs Festival.
This great score sets a Miltonian text with wonderment, innocence, joy and humour, with marvellous orchestral resource, questing harmonic daring, and a heady combination of vocal writing looking simultaneously backwards to Handel, sideways to Mozart (sadly dead several years before the oratorio’s premiere) and forwards to Beethoven. Its only weakness is the tedious lovey-doviness between Adam and Eve in Part III, but we can forgive that for all we have experienced before.
Geraint Bowen presided over an account which brought all the exhilaration of the glorious work delightfully to life, though we could sometimes have wished for more incisive conducting (“The Heavens are Telling”, for example, could have had more bite in delivery, though the roaring trombones of the Philharmonia did their best).
Diction from the well-drilled Festival Chorus was exemplary in this demanding libretto, though the sturdy fugues of necessity made notes more important than words.
Elizabeth Cragg delivered her big soprano arias with capable display, James Oxley was the striking and intelligent tenor, and bass Giles Underwood sang with mellifluous authority.
One worrying thought: the Cathedral was packed from every cranny to the rafters, with very few exits, and with much of the audience of a certain age, some challenged in mobility. I trust the arrangements for emergency evacuation are well in place.