THUNDEROUS joy best describes Joseph Haydn’s greatest oratorio, The Creation. The music at the opening concert of the 2022 Canberra International Music Festival (CIMF), was a tribute to humanity’s creative vision and the wonders of nature.

The gala concert for the 2022 CIMF, which is themed “Pole to Pole”, was presented in partnership with the Australian Haydn Ensemble (AHE) in collaboration with Sydney Chamber Choir (SCC). The performers were Alexandra Oomens, soprano; Andrew Goodwin, tenor; James Ioelu, baritone; the AHE directed by Skye McIntosh and the SCC, all under the lead of CIMF artistic director Roland Peelman.

James Ioelu, baritone. Photo: Peter Hislop.

Bursting into light with a loud and long sustained note, the almost three-hour oratorio began. With Peelman, his usual energetic self, he drove the players with precision. The imposing figure of the baritone Ioelu, with his equally imposing voice, began the many parts for the soloists. Sung in English, the matching of the text from the Bible to the music blended perfectly.

Singing next, Goodwin and his robust tenor voice easily filled the hall. He made the words so clear that the screened text was hardly needed. As the choir took over at full volume, their sound almost swallowed the orchestra. The delightfully bright soprano Oomens stepped up for her first part. Her voice and lively theatrics helped to bring the music alive.

Haydn’s music and his setting of the text is truly a work of genius in any age. It contains numerous styles, subtleties and outright forceful expressions.

Alexandra Oomens, soprano. Photo: Peter Hislop.

With mostly period instruments, the AHE, including a very grand fortepiano that took up a lot of on-stage real estate, were well on song for this gala opening concert.

This work contains a wide range of musical colours. From the soft and ethereal to the booming combined sound that can set a listener back when in full flight. Between the three soloists, the choir and AHE, their volume was almost overwhelming, and that was just the first part.

The long second part of “The Creation”, is a tour de force of dynamic musical invention, fitting its subject perfectly. Haydn really is the father of music. The play between the soprano and the recorder was especially delightful.

Peelman got into the swing of things so much at one moment it was possible to hear him singing. The playful music and equally playful text seemed to set off an in-joke among the brass players, who were unable to contain their joy. What music.

In the last part, while it was impossible to think that it could become any more rousing, it did. This part began playfully as it bounced along. Moving through several plaintive sections before it builds into expansive complexity and dynamic.

The choir and soloists sang their hearts out. The AHE, in its tenth year, sounded full and strong. Everything came together perfectly, setting a high standard for the next nine days for this important and distinctive international music festival.

The long, long standing ovation and many bows from the capacity audience said it all.

This article was written by Rob Kennedy from Canberra City News.

Featured IMage: Opening Gala. Photo: Peter Hislop