A musical painting of the primordial

Karl-Heinz Steffens is in Israel to conduct Franz Joseph Haydn's masterpiece, the oratorio "The Creation."

karl heinz steffens 88 (photo credit: )
karl heinz steffens 88
(photo credit: )
Karl-Heinz Steffens is no stranger to Israeli audiences as a clarinetist. He has often played under the auspices of the Jerusalem International Chamber Music Festival that takes place each September. His wife, pianist Michal Friedlander, is Israeli and they keep a home in Tel Aviv in addition to one in Berlin . This time, however, he is not here to perform on clarinet. Over the past five years he has focused more and more on conducting. In fact, this past December marked the end of his 24 years as first clarinetist for the Berlin Philharmonic. He feels it is exactly the right time for such a change, as this April he will become conductor of the Halle Staatskapelle Orchestra in Germany (about an hour's drive from Berlin ). He is in Israel to conduct Franz Joseph Haydn's masterpiece, the oratorio "The Creation" as the second concert in the Liturgical series of the Jerusalem Symphony, with a cast of 100 musicians that includes the symphony, soprano Hila Baggio, tenor James Oxley, bass Michael George and the Jauna Muzika-Vilnius Municipal Choir, the Lithuanian ensemble which has won 15 international choral competitions. Although it will be his first time conducting this piece, it is well-known to him. "I grew up with this piece", he says. "In Germany movements from it are played in youth orchestras, and I have played it many many times since then as well." Haydn created this oratorio in three parts: "The Representation of Chaos", "The Creation of Sea Creatures, Birds, Animals, and Lastly, Man" and "The First Happy Hours of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden." The orchestra often plays alone, notably in the episodes of "tone-painting": the appearance of the sun, the creation of various beasts, and above all in the overture, the famous depiction of the chaos before the creation. Haydn made use of a huge variety of traditional forms in this work: arias, recitatives, fugues and sonatas. The main difference for Steffens in conducting the Haydn here is that it will be performed in English. Haydn wrote it to a German libretto by Gottfried van Swieten based on the Book of Genesis and John Milton's epic poem Paradise Lost. Steffens explains that since Haydn's effects are attuned to the German words, many adjustments are required to maintain the sensitive music-text relationship in English. He adds that there is a gentle irony to some of Haydn's music. For example, in the section about Adam and Eve, Eve says she will follow everything Adam tells her, but the music is in the minor mode, which Steffens understands as the "music telling the truth," with Eve not quite accepting of her role as following Adam. The Creation, oratorio by Haydn performed by the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, soloists and the Jauna Muzika-Vilnius Municipal Choir conducted by Karl-Heinz Steffens Wednesday, 8 p.m. Jerusalem Theater Thursday, 8 p.m. Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center , 19 Shaul Hamelech Blvd. Tickets for Jerusalem: (02) 566- 0211 or 1-700-70-4000, NIS 160/180 and for Tel Aviv: (03) 692-7777, NIS135/220