Run, don't walk!
Persuaded by Steve Schwartz's review (on ClassM-L) of the recording of Haydn's Creation on Naxos [Soprano: Sunhae Im, Tenor: Jan Kobow, Bass: Hanno Muller-Brachmann, Vocalensemble Köln / Capella Augustina / Andreas Spering], I sent away for it, and it arrived yesterday.
Honestly, I have heard very few really bad recordings of the Creation; it seems to inspire everyone to do outdo themselves. Still, this recording has lots to set it apart from others that are merely excellent. To my ears, it is the soloists who really clinch the quality of any recording of the Creation. In this recording, the solists are impossible to find fault with, and the soprano is brilliant.
The Soprano, Sunhae Im, has a light, confident voice that is perfect for the role, rhapsodic, worshipful, joyous or playful as the piece demands, powerful but never quite shrill. I was about to give the opinion that Ms Im should soon earn a major reputation in this repertoire, but she already has (she has performed with Hogwood, Chailly and Blomstedt).
The Bass and Tenor, Messrs Muller-Brachmann and Kabow, do admirably, but I must confess that in this work I have never really noticed the other solo voices. The bass does a gorgeous job with the Great Whales, and the tenor has a beautifully expressive voice that has just the right balance of pride and delight, as he narrates how the process of creation unfolds. Ms Im did not dominate in any way; quite the opposite. The ensemble pieces--and there are several brilliant ones--are perfectly balanced. Nobody tries to outyell anyone else.
As mentioned in Steve Schwartz's review, the orchestra and even the chorus, do not shrink from making sounds that would have been considered somewhat harsh a decade ago. This only adds to the overall effect; unfortunately, if you want to listen to the recording at your workplace you must have lightning-fast fingers on the volume control, because not only is the dynamic range quite wide, there are abrupt volume changes, e.g. "and there was LIGHT!" Oh mama!
Wonderful tone, attack and phrasing. This Spering must be taken notice of.
Summary: an excellent buy, and if you like The Creation, a must-have.
Now I must go back and try to listen a little more carefully to the contralto, Christine Weir, who apparently only appears in No. 34, the last number. Talk among yourselves.
Santu de Silva (Archimedes)