The Creation by Franz Joseph Haydn (1798)

Distant Echo by Josephine R. Unglaub

THE CREATION
Franz Joseph Haydn

Now heav’n in fullest glory shone;
earth smiles in all her rich attire.
The room of air with fowl is fill’d,
the water swell’d by shoals of fish;
by heavy beasts the ground is trod.
But for all its glory, “the work was not complete.”
There wanted yet that wond’rous being,
that grateful should God’s pow’r admire,
with heart and voice his goodness praise.


Man is the pinnacle of creation because he alone is made in the image of God. This is sufficient to establish his worth, whether his esteem agrees or not.  There are many bright souls whose gifts are apparent and on display, and we reward these people with praise.  This works well as long as conditions are right, but unlike God, ours is a conditional love.  We are harsh and judgmental, beating each other down to a form where God’s image is barely recognizable.

This is where miracles occur.  The image of God is inextinguishable.  As John Steinbeck wrote in The Grapes of Wrath

For man, unlike any other thing organic or inorganic in the universe, grows beyond his work, walks up the stairs of his concepts, emerges ahead of his accomplishments. This you may say of man — when theories change and crash, when schools, philosophies, when narrow dark alleys of thought, national, religious, economic, grow and disintegrate, man reaches, stumbles forward, painfully, mistakenly sometimes. Having stepped forward, he may slip back, but only half a step, never the full step back. This you may say and know it and know it.

Franz Joseph Haydn was such a man

Terry Glaspey explains in 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know :

Writing music never came as easily for Haydn as it did for his contemporary, Mozart, from whom great music seemed to pour effortlessly. Ever industrious, Haydn had to work hard throughout his life, disciplining himself to keep regular hours for composing every day. When inspiration failed to come, he would pray for God’s help.

The result of his hard work and his prayers is an almost bewilderingly large number of pieces of various kinds, which sustain a very high level of consistency in their quality. Haydn was one of the most productive composers in history because he was one of the hardest working. His output includes 104 symphonies, more than sixty-eight string quartets (these two forms he brought to a perfection never heard before), more than one hundred piano pieces, a dozen masses, and two dozen operas. His renown grew to the point where he was in demand throughout Europe, and he even spent a number of very productive years in England, where some of his most accomplished symphonies were written.

Those who knew Haydn were always struck by his geniality and kind nature, joyous embrace of life, and love of good food, good music, and good company. He loved to joke and play pranks on his friends, and this mischievousness shows itself in many of his compositions. He seemed to enjoy making audiences smile, and surprising them with the playfulness that he worked into the pieces. For his famous Surprise symphony (no. 94, 1791), he inserted a jarring chord meant to awaken any listeners who had been lulled to sleep. His Clock symphony (no. 101, 1793–94) has the stately beat of a pendulum clock, and La Poule (no. 83, 1785) imitates the sound of a clucking hen. When some church leaders criticized his music for not being serious enough, he replied, “God gave me a cheerful heart, so he will surely forgive me if I serve him cheerfully.”2 Mozart, with whom he shared a deep and lasting friendship, referred to him as “Papa Haydn,” and the name caught on with his admirers. When the younger Mozart died, Haydn grieved the loss deeply and spoke with unstinting praise of his talent. Theirs was a relationship of respect and admiration rather than competition.

His cheerfulness was not the result of his circumstances, for Haydn did not have an easy life. He experienced extreme poverty while trying to establish his musical career, he was married for forty years to a woman who showed no interest or appreciation for his music and was even known to roll up his written musical scores in order to use them to curl her hair, and he sometimes worked for patrons who treated him more like a slave than a man of genius. But through it all, the music he composed was a reflection of his personality: beautiful and orderly but also cheerful, joyous, and with a good bit of wit and humor.

How has the image of God emerged through your life?


John 1: 1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

D I G  D E E P E R


The Creation

Franz Joseph Haydn

 

 

Franz Joseph Haydn

(1732–1809) Austrian composer; luminary of Western music of the classical era

In early life Haydn was a choirboy at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna. He subsequently studied the theoretical works of Fux and Matthesohn and studied composition under Porpora. After having as patrons Baron K. J. Furnberg and Count F. M. Morzin, Haydn began service in the house of Prince Esterhazy, where he became first kapellmeister (chapelmaster) by 1766. Although Haydn had become wealthy, internationally known, and virtually independent by 1790, he remained in the service of the Esterhazys until his retirement in 1801. His contribution as composer of opera, symphonic, and chamber music is of the highest caliber, approaching that of Ludwig van Beethoven and Wolfgang Mozart.

Haydn’s music for the church spans nearly his whole career. He wrote fourteen masses, a Stabat Mater, two Te Deums, two major oratorios: The Creation (1798), his most popular choral work, and the secular The Seasons (1801). He also composed offertories, cantatas, and The Seven Last Words-originally seven instrumental sonatas written for the cathedral of Cadiz, later rescored as String Quartets, Op. 51 and as an oratorio with soloists, chorus, and orchestra.

Among his best-known masses are the “Great Organ Mass” (Mass in Honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 1766), the St. Cecilia Mass (1770), the Mass in Time of War (1796), the “Lord Nelson Mass” (Missa in Angustiis, 1798), and the Harmony Mass (1802).

His techniques are of great historical importance. His uses of fugue, for example, often are symphonic in technique, while operatic influences come into many of his arias. Choral pieces are often written in sonata style, involving the contrasts and developments/recapitulations of instrumental music. His instrumental scorings are very interesting and colorful, particularly in uses of wind instruments.

The Creation

Fortunately, shortly before his composing days were over, Haydn was given a religious text that lent itself perfectly to his greatest gifts as a composer. While in England, inspired by Handel’s oratorios, he began to think of composing an oratorio. He asked his friend and colleague François Hippolyte Barthelemon for advice concerning a subject for an oratorio. Barthelemon picked up a Bible and said, “There, take that, and begin at the beginning” (Landon 4, p. 117). As it turned out, that is what Haydn did—quite coincidentally. Just before he left England, he received a libretto on the subject of the Creation written by an unknown English author who had probably intended it for Handel. We do not know why Handel did nothing with it—or even if he received it. It probably came to Haydn via Salomon. Haydn took the libretto with him back to Vienna. Baron van Swieten, who had first introduced Haydn to Handel’s oratorios back in the ’80s, was as enthusiastic as Haydn about the project. Swieten translated the original English libretto into German, and then, after Haydn had composed the music to the German text, he adapted the original English text to fit the music. The score was published in 1800 with both the German and English texts set to the music.

The Creation is divided into three parts. (See the Appendix for an outline of the entire oratorio.) Part I tells of the first four days of Creation, Part II of days five and six, and Part III of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The core text of Parts I and II comes from the Creation story in Genesis 1 and 2:7. Each day begins with a secco recitative in which one of the three soloists (each representing an angel) tells, directly from Genesis, what God did that day. Their proclamation of God’s creative act is followed by two types of response: first, amazed and delighted description (accompanied recitative or aria); then, grateful praise (chorus). Books VII and VIII of Milton’s Paradise Lost were the source of inspiration for some of the response texts, and nos. 12, 13, and 27 are from the Psalms. Although each day includes all three components—proclamation, description, and praise—the musical structure of each day varies considerably. Only the second and fourth days follow the “typical” structure of secco recitative (proclamation), accompanied recitative or aria (description), and chorus (praise).

Part I

Part I begins with one of Haydn’s greatest challenges—an instrumental depiction of chaos—which resulted in one of his greatest achievements. Just as the disordered elements in the dark void struggled for form before God spoke, so do the empty C octave at the beginning and the disordered musical elements that follow struggle for sonata form and the “light” of C major tonality. Both the cosmic and the musical struggle are futile until God speaks a creative word: “Let there be light.” The blazing C major chord on “light” is the greatest surprise in all of Haydn’s music, just as light devouring darkness at God’s word was the greatest surprise in the creation story.

The telling of God’s act on Day One is followed by an aria with chorus in which description and praise are combined. The tune the choir sings on the words “A new created world” is one of Haydn’s simplest, and yet most profound. Like Donald Tovey “I am proud to ally myself with the company of persons who are as completely bowled over by it as by anything in Bach’s B minor Mass.”

Day Two illustrates the “typical” structure, and Day Three follows with what might be called a double version of the typical structure: act—description/act—description—praise. The double structure is due to the two parts of God’s act on that day—the creation of bodies of water and dry land. In addition Day Three has a recitative that introduces the chorus of praise. Day Four follows, again with the typical structure. Although Haydn gave it no special structure, he did underscore its special position as the end of Part I by framing it with two of the highlights of the oratorio—the orchestral depiction of the sunrise at the beginning, and at the end, the splendid and ever-popular chorus celebrating cosmic order, “The heavens are telling the glory of God.” The chorus not only concludes Day Four; it is also the climax of praise that marks the end of the creation of inanimate things.

Part II

Both of the days in Part II have variants of the double structure. Day Five has the creation of fish and birds, but there is a different reason for its double structure. God’s words on this day include the command, “Be fruitful.” So Haydn omitted description of the fish. Instead he composed an arioso for God’s words (uniquely scored for violas I and II, cellos I and II, and string basses). That is followed by an introduction to a trio in which the angel soloists contemplate God’s work prior to the angelic chorus of praise.

The sixth day—the creation of animals and humans—has the most elaborate structure of all for two reasons: it includes the creation of humans, and it meditates on the whole of God’s “glorious work.” So after the description of animals (no. 21) there is another aria (no. 22) that briefly summarizes the whole and introduces the creation of Adam.

Now heav’n in fullest glory shone;
earth smiles in all her rich attire.
The room of air with fowl is fill’d,
the water swell’d by shoals of fish;
by heavy beasts the ground is trod.

But for all its glory, “the work was not complete.”

There wanted yet that wond’rous being,
that grateful should God’s pow’r admire,
with heart and voice his goodness praise.

After this introduction, the creation of Adam is presented in the normal pattern of proclamation (no. 23) and description (no. 24), but the third component, praise, is enlarged considerably. First, it is preceded by an introductory recitative (no. 25), which turns our attention back to the whole with the words from Genesis 1:31—“And God saw ev’ry thing that he had made; and behold, it was very good,” and an allusion to Job 38:7—“and the heav’nly choir, in song divine, clos’d the sixth day.” This is followed by the expected chorus of praise. But there is more. After the chorus, the three angels meditate on God’s power and mercy in the words of Psalm 104:27–30. Then the angel chorus returns with the previous chorus’s words and music (“Achieved is the glorious work”). But soon the chorus goes on to a glorious climax with new words (“Glory to his name forever”) and new music (a mighty fugue).

Part III

The story from Genesis 1 finished, the librettist turned to Books IV and V of Paradise Lost for the picture of Adam and Eve in Eden in Part III. With just six numbers, it is by far the shortest of the three parts. It has a double structure like the fifth and sixth days, but God’s glorious work has already been completed, so the first component of the pattern, God’s act, is missing. Instead it begins with an accompanied recitative whose function is both descriptive and introductory. As usual in Haydn’s descriptive recitatives, the orchestra depicts the words instrumentally before they are sung. Here a ravishingly beautiful flute trio accompanied by pizzicato strings depicts the “rosy mantle” of “morning young and fair” and the “pure harmony” that descends “from the celestial vaults” upon the newly created earth. Then the recitative (sung by Uriel) turns our attention to the “blissful pair” who will utter “a louder praise of God,” and invites all the angels to join them: “Then let our voices ring, united with their song!” Indeed they do! Adam and Eve, the angel choir, and all creation join in singing what Tovey called the greatest movement that Haydn ever wrote!

After this one cannot help but think the rest can only be anti-climactic and superfluous. It may be anti-climactic, but it is not superfluous. The human creature is unique in all creation. Genesis points out that uniqueness by telling us not only that Adam was created out of the dust of the earth on the same day as the animals, but also that God breathed into him the breath of life and made him in God’s own image. For want of better terminology, we can say that human nature has a “high” and a “low” aspect, provided we do not denigrate the “low.” Like everything else, God pronounced it good. So the next two numbers complete the picture of the human creature by showing its “low” aspect. Adam and Eve now sing by themselves to each other, not, as in their previous duet, to God with the angels. Their music is correspondingly “lower”—more earthy and folksy—without any suggestion that “lower” somehow falls outside of that which God pronounced good.

Theologian Helmut Thielicke wrote that Genesis “recognizes our earthy, beastly side.” If The Creation ended with the great duet and chorus (no. 30), it would have presented a one-sided view of humans as (in Thielicke’s words) “a spiritual being who somehow hovers above all that is creaturely.” But by going on to nos. 31 and 32, it affirms the biblical view that “the whales, the sparrows, and Homo sapiens are all created together on the same sixth day of creation and thus included in a whole.” Therefore the “struggle of nature also determines our human life, that we too are controlled by instincts and urges, needs and desires, just as are the birds and the beasts of the field.” Haydn said and believed that “an infinite God would surely have mercy on his finite creature, pardoning dust for being dust.” And he added, “These thoughts cheer me,” just as Thielicke said he was cheered “beyond all measure” that “the Lord’s Prayer does not pretend that we are only religious people, but that we have the urge to eat—again like the animals—that we must have our daily ration of bread.”

The picture of humanity completed, a final chorus of praise is in order. But first a small recitative precedes it—not to introduce it, but to give listeners a warning, a much-needed warning at a time when there was much “enlightened” optimism about human nature.

O happy pair, and always happy yet,
if not misled by false conceit,
ye strive at more, as granted is,
and more to know, as know ye should.

Sources and Resources

D.S. Cushman, “Haydn, Franz Joseph,” ed. J.D. Douglas and Philip W. Comfort, Who’s Who in Christian History (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1992), 305–306.

Calvin R. Stapert, Playing Before the Lord: The Life and Work of Joseph Haydn (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2014), 237–241.

Greenburg, Robert. Haydn: His Life and Music. DVD. Chantilly, VA: The Teaching Company, 2000.
Hogwood, Christopher, Emma Kirby, Anthony Rolfe Johnson, and Michael George. Haydn—The Creation: Orchestra of the Academy of Ancient Music. DVD. Directed by Chris Hunt. London: Decca Classics, 2007.
Stapert, Calvin R. Playing Before the Lord: The Life and Work of Joseph Haydn. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2014.

Terry Glaspey, 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know: The Fascinating Stories behind Great Works of Art, Literature, Music, and Film (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2015).

 

Josephine R. Unglaub

 

Josephine R. Unglaub

Josephine R. Unglaub

Art: Distant Echo

Josephine Unglaub is a German-based artist and photographer with a passion for surrealism. Her work can be found here: https://lemanshots.wordpress.com

 

 

Terry Glaspey

 

Terry Glaspey

I’m really looking forward to discussing my book, “75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know,” with the members of Literary Life Book Club. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts and perspectives on some of the art, music, and literature you’ll discover in the book. I’m interested in how it speaks to you in your life and the ways it inspires, challenges, or maybe even annoys you! I’ll try to share some “deleted scenes” stuff I had to leave out and will tell a few stories about what I experienced while doing the writing and research. Hope that many of you can join us as we look at he stories behind some truly wonderful art.

Let’s explore together!

Terry

Join the discussion with Terry on Facebook HERE

Terry Glaspey is a writer, an editor, a creative mentor, and someone who finds various forms of art—painting, films, novels, poetry, and music—to be some of the places where he most deeply connects with God.

He has a master’s degree in history from the University of Oregon (Go Ducks!), as well as undergraduate degrees emphasizing counseling and pastoral studies.

He has written over a dozen books, including 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know:  Fascinating Stories Behind Great Art, Music, Literature, and Film, Not a Tame Lion: The Spiritual Legacy of C.S. Lewis, The Prayers of Jane Austen, 25 Keys to Life-Changing Prayer, Bible Basics for Everyone, and others.

Terry enjoys writing and speaking about a variety of topics including creativity and spirituality, the artistic heritage of the Christian faith, the writing of C.S. Lewis, and creative approaches to apologetics.

He serves on the board of directors of the Society to Explore and Record Church History and is listed in Who’s Who in America Terry has been the recipient of a number of awards, including a distinguished alumni award and the Advanced Speakers and Writers Editor of the Year award.

Terry has two daughters and lives in Eugene, Oregon.

Dig Deeper at TerryGlaspey.com

 

Some of the greatest painters, musicians, architects, writers, filmmakers, and poets have taken their inspiration from their faith and impacted millions of people with their stunning creations. Now readers can discover the stories behind seventy-five of these masterpieces and the artists who created them. From the art of the Roman catacombs to Rembrandt to Makoto Fujimura; from Gregorian Chant to Bach to U2; from John Bunyan and John Donne to Flannery O’Connor and Frederick Buechner; this book unveils the rich and varied artistic heritage left by believers who were masters at their craft.

Terry Glaspey, 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know: The Fascinating Stories behind Great Works of Art, Literature, Music, and Film (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2015).

Order it HERE today.