Haydn’s The Creation at The Sage, Gateshead

The Creation, The Sage, Gateshead
By Lynne Walker
24 December 2004
Haydn’s Creation couldn’t have been a more appropriate choice for the opening concert at The Sage Gateshead complex, although it must have felt more like “paradise found” for the Northern Sinfonia than Paradise Lost, the Milton poem on which the oratorio is based.
In the performances of the uninhibited soloists – Geraldine McGreevy, Thomas Walker and Michael George (placed, perhaps unwisely, behind the orchestra) – there was a sense of the architectural accomplishment and, more obviously, the human joy contained in Haydn’s great work. The one artistic achievement matched the other splendidly.
From the remarkable evocation in “Chaos” of nothingness – except for the dark emptiness that existed before the creation – to the arrival of human life in the universe, which is symbolised at the end of the work, the music’s cosmic power grid flickered, then blazed into life.
If it didn’t blaze throughout, in the refined reading of the orchestra’s musical director, the violinist Thomas Zehetmair, it didn’t matter. His tempos felt absolutely right and, in matters of phrasing and articulation, in the music’s nuances and wittily picturesque allusions, and in the assured attack of the choir and chamber orchestra, it was an evening of superb recreation, of vision fulfilled.
For the opening concert (given twice, and recorded for broadcast on radio and TV), the orchestra was joined by the Northern Sinfonia Chorus, well-drilled for this occasion by its founder, Alan Fearon.
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