Saturday, November 12, 2016

Second Saturday music spot: 'The heavens are telling ' (from Haydn's Creation)

Extracts from Haydn's Creation, St Peter's Singers conducted by Simon Lindley

This is one of very few performances in which the second line of "The Heavens are telling" is given correctly, avoiding an astonishing schoolboy error.

The relevant line in the original poem was "And the firmament sheweth the handywork of God" which in this performance is set to Haydn's music as "The firmament displays His wondrous handiwork."

That makes perfect sense, unlike the version usually performed which has the line as "the wonder of His work displays the firmament." It appears that this ludicrous switch of the subject and object resulted from an error two hundred years ago in translating the work from the original English into German and back again. (It was offered to Handel long before Haydn finally turned it into an Oratorio.)

Much of the blame for the fact that the overwhelming majority of performances use the wrong second line must rest with Novello whose full choral scores for The Creation have the wrong words.

However, a stand-alone copy is available with the right words, as I know from having taken part as a treble in a performance of the oratorio in St Albans Cathedral which Simon Lindley conducted more than forty years ago, and he issued the version with the correct libretto.

It is of course a wonderfully rousing tune in either language and even with the wrong libretto. But why on earth does Simon Lindley appear to be almost the only organist and conductor who ever bothers to dig up and issue to his singers the right words?

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