Recorded in Cologne in July 2003 by German Radio, the Naxos issue offers another first-rate period performance of Haydn’s masterpiece, lively and very well sung. When other issues of Die Schöpfung in the super-bargain category use modern instruments, it fills an important gap, particularly when the digital sound is so clear and transparent.
The opening prelude representing Chaos is taken very slowly, but that brings out all the more the abrasiveness of Haydn’s daring dissonances on the period strings of the Capella Augustina. After the extreme hush of that opening, the choral cry of Licht!, Licht!, is then shattering in its impact. Generally, Spering’s speeds are on the fast side, yet with no feeling of rush. The chorus, the Cologne Vocal Ensemble, is a relatively compact body, incisive in its attack; it is set in a helpful but not over-large acoustic, but it has ample power for the dramatic moments.
The three soloists too are all excellent and youthful-sounding. The Korean, Sunhae Im, has a sweet, bright soprano that she uses with style and extreme flexibility; the German tenor, Jan Kobow, has a clean-cut, well-focused voice, a touch baritonal in timbre but with no strain in the upper register; while Hanno Müller-Brachmann, also German, sings with similarly clean attack and the fine focus. An outstanding bargain. • Penguin Guide, January 2009