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The Creation : Work information

(Franz) Joseph Haydn ( Music, Images,)
Performed by
Amor Artis Orchestra, Johannes Somary (Conductor)

This work

Work name
The Creation
Work number
Hob. XXI:2
1798-01-01 02:00:00

This recording

Newport Classic
John Ostendorf
Stephen J. Epstein
Recording date

The Composers

(Franz) Joseph Haydn

Joseph Haydn, the most celebrated composer of his time, excelled in every genre and, along with Mozart and Beethoven, represents the high point of Viennese Classicism. His long career began amid the patronage of the late Baroque and concluded as the early flowerings of Romanticism began to sweep across Europe.

Born on 31 March 1732, the son of a master wheelwright and brother to two fellow professional musicians, Haydn's musical talents were recognised early. In 1739/40 he became a choirboy at the Stephansdom in Vienna and was given a musical education.

But for his father's refusal of consent, Haydn might have been made a castrato. In the event, his voice matured and in his 18th year he was compelled to leave. For eight tough years, Haydn was a freelance musician and teacher, composing in the evenings and learning as much as possible from Porpora and Metastasio.

In 1757, he gained his first regular appointment, as director of music for Count Morzin, and began to write his first symphonies. He also married, wedding Maria Keller on 26 November 1760 in an unhappy relationship that resulted in infidelities on both sides.

In 1761, Haydn was recruited as Vice-Kappellmeister to the Esterházy family and worked steadily to enlarge the orchestra. His treatment was generous, especially after Paul Anton was succeeded by Nicolaus Esterházy, and his status was more that of a professional employee than servant.

Haydn's compositional output for the court was largely instrumental in the 1760s and, apart from symphonies and concertos, included baryton trios for the Prince to play. On 3 March 1766, however, Kappellmeister Gregor Joseph Werner died and Haydn now inherited responsibilities for church music as well.

The summers were now spent at Nicolaus's new castle Esterháza, where a steadily increasing number of operas were staged. By 1778 the court was spending ten months of the year there and a regular opera season had been established. Between 1777 and 1783, Haydn wrote almost one new opera each year in addition to revising and altering new operas acquired from Vienna.

After 1783, Haydn wrote no new operas, devoting himself instead to the composition of instrumental music for publication. A new contract in 1779 had removed a clause of exclusivity, enabling Haydn's works to be heard outside the court. His first works appeared in print in Vienna in 1780 and Haydn also began to market his music in other countries.

Prestigious foreign commissions, such as those for the Paris Symphonies and Seven Last Words, were spreading Haydn's fame. In addition, he was no longer isolated at Esterháza, spending much of his time in Vienna where he had many friends and patrons. The strength of Haydn's friendship with Mozart remains uncertain, though the mutual admiration of each other's abilities is clear.

When Nicolaus Esterházy was succeeded by his son, Anton, the musical establishment was dissolved, allowing Haydn, on reduced salary, to move to Vienna. He immediately received invitation to travel to London, where he composed twelve symphonies for the promoter Salomon over the course of two trips in 1791-2 and 1794-5.

The London visits were the highpoint of Haydn's career and were particularly lucrative financially. When Anton was succeeded by Nicolaus II, Haydn was reappointed as Kappellmeister and returned to Vienna. His duties were primarily concerned with sacred vocal music and he wrote a number of masses and oratorios, including The Creation and The Seasons.

Haydn had suffered a serious illness in 1800-1 and, after completing his last major work in 1802, underwent a period of physical decline marked by a steady stream of honours, including an honorary citizenship of Vienna. The French bombardment of Vienna on 11-12 May 1809 hastened his end, though Napoleon stationed a guard of honour outside his house, and he died on 31 May.   

Haydn is colloquially known as the 'Father of the Symphony' and of his 100 or so examples, around thirty are regularly performed. He also practically invented the String Quartet as a genre for serious compositional thought and composed a huge amount of important vocal music.

Related Composers: Mozart, BoccheriniBeethoven

Track listing

  • Introduction: The Representation of Chaos 4:30 min
  • In the Beginning 2:38 min
  • Now vanish 4:10 min
  • And God made the firmament 2:01 min
  • Astonished at the wondrous work 2:18 min
  • And God said: Now let the waters 0:42 min
  • Rolling in foaming billows 4:27 min
  • And God said: Let the earth bring forth grass 0:28 min
  • With verdure clad 5:40 min
  • And the Heavenly host 2:40 min
  • And God said: Let there be lights 0:42 min
  • The heavens are telling 5:18 min
  • And God said: Let the waters bring forth 0:36 min
  • On mighty pens 8:32 min
  • And God created great whales 2:03 min
  • And the angels 5:26 min
  • The Lord is great 2:36 min
  • And God said: Let the earth bring forth 3:52 min
  • Now Heav'n in all her glory shines 3:42 min
  • And God created Man in his own image 0:44 min
  • In native worth and honour clad 4:19 min
  • And God saw every thing 0:24 min
  • Achieved is the glorious work 1:39 min
  • In rosy mantle appears 4:27 min
  • By thee with bliss 11:13 min
  • O happy pair! and ever happy still 0:26 min
  • Sing the Lord, ye voices all 4:24 min


Still, to this day, Haydn's best-loved work, The Creation is a remarkable oratorio in the tradition of Handel's Messiah. An unprecedented pan-European success when it first appeared, it has been a staple work in the choral repertory ever since.

When Haydn left London, Salomon gave him a libretto entitled The Creation of the World, originally written for Handel. Having encountered Handel's music in England, Haydn was enthusiastic and asked van Swieten to adapt it with the ingenious idea of preparing both a German and English version. Thus the music for The Creation, the first bilingual composition, was begun in autumn 1796 and completed in the autumn of 1797, though Haydn continued to revise the oratorio until March 1797.

The first performances were private affairs, with the public premiere occurring in March 1799, but it was clear that the new oratorio was a sensation: at the first performance, the players had to stop for several minutes at the point of God's creation of Light, such was the electrifying effect of Haydn's music. Indeed, after the dark and mysterious murmurings of the strings, this blazing moment of C major brilliance as the choir sings 'And there was light!', is thrilling. Also particularly popular is the triumphant chorus 'The heavens are telling'.