Sunday, May 20, 2018

Sunday music spot: extracts from Haydn's "The Creation"

Here is a selection of solos and chorus from Haydn's magnificent oratorio "The Creation" performed by the St Peters Singers of Leeds during a tour of Mallorca in 2009.

Kudos to Simon Lindley, who moved from St Albans Cathedral and St Albans School to be organist of Leeds Parish church in 1975. Simon Lindley was in the 1970's, and evidently still is, almost the only prominent choir leader who always insists on using the correct words for the concluding chorus in this recording, "The Heavens are telling the glory of God."

Almost everyone else singing this piece in English uses a terrible libretto in which the second line just plain wrong: while the music is divine, the entire oratorio suffers badly from having been incompetently translated from the original English into German by a diplomat who was an amateur linguist, and then badly translated back. One of the worst examples is the second line of "The Heavens are Telling" in which the subject and object were accidentally transposed in the course of translating the words of Psalm 19 from English to German and back again!

Psalm 19 verse one in the King James Bible reads "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork."

The libretto sung in the clip below fits this to the music as "The heavens are telling the glory of God; the firmament displays His wondrous handiwork" which anyone but the strictest purist would accept as equivalent in meaning. Unfortunately almost every other choir who performs this in English sings as the second line "The wonder of his work displays the firmament" which leaves me fuming at the incompetent translation rather than enjoying the music.

But THIS version gets it right ...

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