PART I 1st Image / 1st Day No. 1 INTRODUCTION: THE REPRESENTATION OF CHAOS 2 Fl, 2 Ob, 2 Cl, 2 Bn, 2 Hn, 2 Tpt, Timp, 2 Tbn, Str (con sordini) – C minor, largo 2/2 The first scene or the first image represents the first day of creation on which God created heaven and earth, and afterward, light. In a biblical perspective, the chaos depicted in the introduction is the tohu wa-bohu (formlessness and void) in the night of the beginning of the first day of creation, before creation of the light of day: the empty, formless, dark, water-covered earth which is still indivisible from the floods of heaven. It is over this chaos that the spirit of God hovers. Chaos disappears as soon as God creates light and separates it from darkness. As the sun, moon and stars are not created until the fourth day, it is light in itself. The librettist does not likely omit the half-verse Gen. 1:5a: And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night´´ unintentionally, for in No. 2 he interprets the verse Gen. 1:5b: And the evening and the morning were the first day´´ as the yielding of the gloomy dismal shades of dark´´ from the holy beams.´´ Only then does he turn attention to the banishment by God or Archangel Michael of the fallen angels and their leader Lucifer or Satan reported in various places in the Old and New Testament (Joshua 14:12, Luke 10:18, Revelations 12:7, 2 Peter 2), while Milton has it occur prior to the creation of heaven, earth and light. As the librettist also refers to them namelessly as hell`s spirits´´ rather than as Lucifer or Satan and also refrains from mentioning Michael, enlightened contemporaries were able to understand the depicted events as a symbol of reason`s victory over the darkness of superstition. It remains to be seen whether the spirit of Freemasonry is revealed in the veneration of light and the juxtaposition of chaos and order reminiscent of the Freemason`s motto Ordo ab Chao´´ (Order out of Chaos´´), as interpreted by more than a few commentators. Yet in The Creation there is nothing of the secret society of the Freemasons as there is in The Magic Flute. For the general public the lack of various names was and is insignificant and robs the image of nothing of its symbolic power beyond any and all specific interpretations. There is scarcely a precursor to Haydn`s chaos in his body of work, merely rudiments at best: the largo introduction to the Overture in C Minor in The Return of Tobias with a single part in unison at the beginning, a diminished seventh B/f/d`/a-flat` in bar 2 as in Chaos, bar 3, and the suggestive theme of the falling minor second in several places (see page 34, theme a); also the slow introductions of his London Symphonies with their searching modulations; and the tonally unstable Fantasia in String Quartet Op. 76 No. 6. There were precursors in French music, however. In the overture (Simphonie) to the ballet Les Elémens (1737), Jean Féry Rebel depicts chaos by linking the idea of a confusion of the four elements (earth, water, fire, air) borrowed from Virgil`s Sixth Eclogue and the beginning of Ovid`s Metamorphoses with the idea of a confusion of harmony and leaving the final key unresolved until the gradual disentanglement of the elements.
As with Haydn`s work, the piece begins with a loud, long, sustained but unusually dissonant chord which plays every note on the D minor scale simultaneously and after fading away in tremolo is often repeated. The elements are represented by precisely identified instruments and musical phrases. At the end, the confusion resolves into a pure D major. There have been several interpretations of the multiple-octave, long sustained unison pitch of the beginning with its slowly fading timpani: it is meant to symbolise the motionlessness of the masses,´´ the infinite empty space, the beginning of all time,´´ the big bang,´´ or perhaps the sudden origin of matter out of nothing according to the verse In the beginning God created ....´´ The theme of the doleful lamentation´´ in a, (a) (b) (c) (d) is the actual theme of chaos´´; it produces the dismal overall atmosphere´´ and symbolises the eternal sadness´´ of chaos. This stands in contrast to theme c (bar 22), the mysteriously aspiring urge to live,´´ which expresses the ordering will of the Creator,´´ or one sees in theme d (bar 28) the actual theme of creation.´´ Theme b of the first violins in bars 3-4 featured a conventional f`` instead of a d`` as the final note in sketch W-1; in its final form it expresses the feeling of helpless isolation´´; the triplets of the bassoon and strings in bars 6-13 sound as if bubbling up out of the primordial ooze´´ (ye mists and exhalations that now rise´´); in bars 11-12 in the ascending E-flat major triad of the horns emerging in f the Spirit of God´´ is felt, symbolised upon the entry of the chorus (bars 76/77) with the identical ascending E-flat major triad; with the solemn entrance of the D-flat major triad (bar 21) one can imagine the sublime elemental forces at the very depths of chaos.´´ In the beginning many listeners were overwhelmed by this music. In 1800 an anonymous critic from Berlin heard a painting of the struggle of the elements and chaos prior to creation. Here everything hisses and screams´´ in pandemonium.´´ With this he meant the alternating dynamic: strong accents, diminuendo, crescendo, pp, ff, a constant fluctuation until the pp conclusion, all of it with muted strings (con sordino).
For the first performances in Vienna – according to the early full scores and individual parts – the trumpets, timpani and horns played con sordino as well. The con sordino instruction for these instruments is crossed out at the beginning of the printer`s score and no longer appears in the original edition, perhaps because Haydn wanted to avoid the impression of a requiem (it was played with muted trumpets and timpani) or because with foreign orchestras he was concerned about a quality rendering. Source: FEDER, Georg: Joseph Haydn. Die Schöpfung (Kassel 1999), Verlag Bärenreiter.