Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus 

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Since Taste of Chicago isn't wrapping up until Sunday, the Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus have transplanted tomorrow's concert to a north-side church. Good thing, too: the sole work on the program, Haydn's monumental oratorio The Creation, deserves a setting free from festival din--and the audience is sure to appreciate the opportunity to focus on the piece without distraction, since it runs nearly two hours. Its subject matter--the six days of creation in the Book of Genesis--likewise seems better suited to a house of worship than to a band shell. Haydn began thinking about writing a liturgical oratorio on a 1791 visit to London, where he first heard Handel's oratorios, the Messiah in particular; his producer in England, Johann Peter Salomon, gave him a libretto composed of excerpts from the Bible and from Milton's Paradise Lost, which had been intended for Handel decades before. Back in Austria, Haydn took nearly seven years to finish the project. He was in his 60s, and the infirmities of age slowed his progress: "I knelt down every day," he wrote, "and prayed God to strengthen me for my task." It seems God chose to answer his pleas. The Creation was a resounding success when it premiered in Vienna in 1798, and for many years it nearly equaled the Messiah in popularity. But today it's rarely revived, in part because lackluster interpretations have persuaded concertgoers that it's stiffly pious and dull. Granted, it doesn't have as many stirring choruses as the Messiah, and its story lacks the built-in drama of the life of Christ; in Haydn's score the expulsion of Lucifer is only a brief episode, and there's precious little conflict to be found in the unfolding of God's plan for the world (the principal characters are Adam and Eve and the archangels Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel). But The Creation's high points--the rousing chorus "The heavens are telling the glory of God," the rapturous aria "With verdure clad"--are as vivid and sublime as anything in Handel's better-known oratorio. Carlos Kalmar conducts; Christopher Bell directs the Grant Park Chorus. The soloists are soprano Janice Chandler, tenor Marlin Miller, and bass Kurt Link. Saturday, July 6, 7:30 PM, St. Benedict Church, 2215 W. Irving Park; 312-742-4763.

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