HAYDN, Joseph.

Die Schoepfung, Ein Oratorium … The Creation, An Oratorio.

[Hob. XXI/2; full score.]

Vienna: [for the composer,] 1800 Stock Code: 125770
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First edition, published by the composer, extremely uncommon, particularly so with the seldom-encountered 4-leaf subscribers list; an excellent copy of this monumental work, widely recognised as one of the highpoints of the Western musical canon. "The Creation is a masterwork in the special sense that it has no weak point, nothing that could be changed or omitted" (New Grove). From the time of its very earliest performances this oratorio, with a libretto by Gottfried van Swieten, was embraced as a tour de force. "Perhaps no other piece of great music has ever enjoyed such immediate and universal acceptance". The oratorio was first mounted at a private performance for van Swieten's Gesellschaft der Associierten at the Palais Schwarzenburg in Vienna on 29 and 30 April 1798, but not performed publicly until the following year, when it was heard at the Burghteater in Vienna on 19 March.

The immediate success of the piece fired Haydn's imagination. "His plans for the publication of The Creation were on a scale and an ambition unprecedented in the history of music" (Jones, The Life of Haydn, p. 197). The desire to create a legacy similar to that established by the publication of the "monumental edition" of Handel's music, 1787-97, must have been a motivation, the decision to publish in two languages added a further level of difficulty. "They knew that there was not a music publisher in Vienna or in London that could cope with this vision, a realisation that served only to further the ambition and to the inevitable decision that it ought to be published by the composer himself the services of Artaria were engaged to prepare the engraved plates, 303 in number Haydn also paid for the paper, imported from Northern Italy. The expenses were to be recouped by seeking subscription Eventually 507 copies were ordered by 409 subscribers this would have brought in close to 7,000 gulden, a good profit on total costs of 2,500 gulden" (ibid.). The resulting score is a substantial, physically imposing, and handsome object.

"There is hardly any doubt in the mind of the average music-lover that Haydn's oratorio The Creation is, tutto sommato, his greatest single accomplishment, and certainly ranks as one of the greatest products of any eighteenth-century mind. It occupies a central position in choral literature and its composition and first performances were the dominant features of Haydn's life in the late 1790s" (Robbins Landon, p. 12).

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Folio (360 x 248 mm). Contemporary half calf, vellum boards, red morocco label to the front board, false bands framed by single gilt rules. Housed in brown cloth drop-back box. Housed in a black quarter morocco solander box by the Chelsea Bindery.


Initial blank, engraved title, 4 subscriber leaves, 303 engraved plates of music on heavy paper. With Haydn's small monogram ink handstamp to foot of title page.


Inked ownership inscriptions of A. Finch and M. Deedes, 1829, to front pastedown. Somewhat rubbed, spine skilfully restored, corners consolidated, slight softening of fore-edge of first few blanks, some minor splits, title page professionally repaired, slight loss to imprint supplied in pen facsimile, Haydn's authorization stamp unaffected, internally very clean, overall very good.


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