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Dueling Composers

Franz Joseph Haydn, 1792

Franz Joseph Haydn, 1792

Music of the Baroque Live, Wednesday at 7:30 pm

“(Haydn’s)…Creation is one of the five greatest pieces ever written—anywhere by anybody.”

—Jane Glover, Music Director of Music of the Baroque

How Haydn came to write a masterpiece:

Handel’s Messiah hasn’t seen a minute of obscurity since the day it was born—Dublin, Easter, 1742. Messiah snowballed throughout the 18th century, debuting across Europe. Singers and choruses clamored for sheet-music; some well-meaning persons made re-orchestrations (one of whom was Mozart); one London concert used as many as 800 performers. By 1770 Messiah had jumped the Atlantic for a performance at the New York City Tavern.

In 1791, the most admired living composer in all of Europe was Franz Joseph Haydn—he was also out of work. With his prince and patron in the grave, Haydn was a free agent, so he decided to take himself to London. There Haydn had to confront Messiah head on. It’s likely he was impressed. It’s possible he was envious. It’s certain he was inspired. He began work on his own oratorio. In 1798, Haydn completed what many consider to be his masterpiece: The Creation, an oratorio comprising 34 arias and choruses.

WFMT’s morning host, Carl Grapentine, is the pre-concert lecturer for Music of the Baroque. Carl offers a list of fun facts about The Creation:

Did you know that…

  •  the libretto had been prepared for Handel, but he never got around to it?


  • the original text was in English? It had to be translated into German for Haydn, although he wanted it to be sung in the local language wherever it was performed, so it was later translated back into English.


  • the keyboard player for the first performance was Antonio Salieri?


  • on his way to the Paris premiere of The Creation, Napoleon narrowly escaped an assassination attempt?


  • Haydn spends the most time on the first six days (Parts I and II)?


  • Part III tells the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden?


  • the Book of Genesis was not the only source for Haydn’s The Creation? Portions came from the Book of Psalms, and John Milton’s Paradise Lost.


  • Haydn said: “I was never so devout as when I was at work on The Creation. I fell on my knees each day and begged God to give me the strength to accomplish the work successfully.”


Tune in for a live broadcast of Haydn’s The Creation on Wednesday, April 2 at 7:30 pm.

Music of the Baroque Chorus and Orchestra
Jane Glover, conductor
Elizabeth Futral, soprano
Nicholas Phan, tenor
Christòpheren Nomura, bass-baritone

  • Fritz

    Actually, Messiah was first performed on April 13, 1742, so it was not exactly born at Christmastime 1741. It also seems a little bit gushy to say that it hasn’t seen a minute of obscurity since. It took several decades for it to really become popular.

  • TheWhiteLilyBlog

    Is the performance archived? I am trying to find it to share with someone who missed the performance.