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While the obviously pictorial Creation has always held first place in audiences’ affections, Haydn’s slightly later oratorio, composed 1799–1801 and therefore straddling the 18th and 19th centuries, surely deserves to be far better known and appreciated. Possibly its lack of narrative thrust has worked against it in the past, but when faced with a reading as superb as this one from Herreweghe and his forces, it’s hard to do anything but admire it afresh. Herreweghe is a thoughtful musician and it shows in this recording. He is skilful in conveying across the oratorio’s two-hours duration an impressive totality of vision that sustains the work from number to number, entirely to Haydn’s benefit. With a first-rate trio of soloists, the accomplished Collegium Vocale Gent and the period sonorities of the Orchestre des Champs-Elysées, the results are thoroughly satisfying. All seems natural, and unfolds in an inevitable manner. Beautifully recorded and presented.

PHILIP REED Read the full review on Agora Classica

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