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Fragrant performance of Haydn

The Creation, performed by the Handel & Haydn Society, conducted by Thomas Dunn. Event in The Tech Performing Arts Series. Symphony Hall, November 6; repeats tonight.

There was a fragrance in the air as Thomas Dunn conducted the Handel & Haydn Society orchestra in the first strains of Haydn's Die Sch"opfung, "The Creation." Sanford Sylvan built upon that beauty as he began Im Anfange, "In the beginning." His voice was more than lyrical: it was spiritual, each word endowed with special meaning.

Charles Bressler announced the dawn of the first day accompanied by a special happiness -- gossamer light but glorious -- in Dunn's orchestra. And the World's opening day culminated with a joyous chorus playing on the words Une eine neue Welt with a fresh and innocent charm.

All three soloists were strong. Bressler had a rich and evocative voice. And Jeanne Ommerl'e's tone was sweet but crisp. But Sylvan was the most poetic of the three, at each step of the way opening new vistas in both the emerging World and Haydn's music. The last section -- "The Garden of Eden" -- was quite remarkable. In duet with Ommerl'e as Eve, Sylvan presented Adam's transfixing wonder at his verdant environment. The German text had a particular romance coming from his lips; it was a romance that seemd to derive naturally from the musicality of his voice and one which was communicated with the appearance of captivating simplicity.

Handel & Haydn's chorus is a very musical instrument. Cohesive and well-balanced, its changing hues brought renewed perspective to the daily richer Earth. Occasionally, though, it was submerged by the orchestra; occasionally, also, it was not as clear as it might have been. But these are minor points.

The strength upon which the whole enlightening evening pivoted was Thomas Dunn's versatile and sensitive orchestra. For the fourth day, for example, the strings began misty mysterious but burst forth triumphant for the rise of the sun; dark notes on cellos and basses then heralded the entry of the moon to shine coolly over the lonely virgin Earth. Each aspect of the Creation was likewise given special coloration; Thomas Dunn would not allow the wonder of each new day to fade. He begins his last season at the helm of the Handel & Haydn Society with a talented crew. His will be a tough act for Christopher Hogwood -- who takes over the leadership of the Society next season -- to follow.

[it1p]Note: Although there are no Tech Performing Arts Series tickets available for tonight's repeat performance of The Creation, discounted tickets will be available for students at Symphony Hall.[it0]

Jonathan Richmond->