''The Creation'' structure

The Creation
Oratorio by Joseph Haydn
Adam and Eve, topic of the oratorio's Part III, in The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch
Native name Die Schöpfung
Text Gottfried van Swieten
Language German
Based on
Composed 1796 (1796)–1798
Movements 34 (in three parts)
Scoring Soprano, tenor and bass soloists, chorus and orchestra

The Creation, the oratorio by Joseph Haydn, is structured in three parts. He composed it in 1796–1798 on German text as Die Schöpfung. The work is set for soloists, chorus and orchestra. Its movements are listed in tables for their form, voice, key, tempo marking, time signature and source.


The origin of the libretto is not known. Haydn received the booklet in English in London on his second extended stay in 1795 from his impresario Johann Peter Salomon. According to Haydn, it was passed by a certain Lidley, or perhaps Thomas Linley, and was attributed to him, but may be written by an unknown author. Back in Vienna, Haydn passed it to his friend and sponsor Baron Gottfried van Swieten, who translated and organized it.[1]

The sources for the libretto are the two Creation narratives from the Book of Genesis, some Psalms, and John Milton's Paradise Lost, an epic poem in ten volumes, first published in 1667. The libretto is structured in three parts, the first dealing with the Creation of the universe and the plants, the second with the Creation of the animals, and of man and woman, and the third with Adam and Eve in Paradise, showing an idealized love in harmony with the "new world".[1][2]


Haydn had composed symphonies, operas, string quartets and more chamber music for the court at Eszterháza. For the oratorio he used the vocal means of contemporary opera, recitative, aria, ensemble and chorus. The orchestra plays a decisive role in structure and tone painting.[1]

The oratorio has five solo roles, in Part I and II the three archangels Gabriel (soprano), Uriel (tenor) and Raphael (bass), in Part III Adam (bass) and Eve (soprano). The final movement needs an additional alto soloist. The chorus is in four parts, SATB.[1] Haydn used three soloists, some conductors prefer different soloists for Adam and Eve.

Haydn set most of the narration from the Genesis in secco recitative. The rendering of the words is simple, different for example from Bach's approach in the parts of the Evangelist in his Passions. Haydn exceptions are the two recitatives opening Part I and II, which are accompanied by the orchestra. For each day, the recitative is followed by a contemplation of it, typically in accompanied recitative and aria, and affirmed by a choral movement.

As Bach in his Christmas Oratorio and Handel in Messiah, Haydn saves the soprano voice for a late appearance. Whereas Bach and Handel reserve the high voice for the Annunciation to the shepherds, Haydn has Gabriel be the first to proclaim the wonder of the Wunderwerk (miraculous work).

Differently from Handel, who keeps solo and choral singing mostly separate in his operas and oratorios, Haydn strives for an interaction of solo and chorus, as in his late Masses and contemporary opera. In the conclusion of Part I, Die Himmel erzählen die Ehre Gottes (The heavens are telling the glory of God), which covers the first two verses of Psalm 19, the second verse, "To day that is coming speaks it the day ...", is given to the soloists, who sing to each other. This trio section is repeated, leading to a choral repetition of verse 1, the second time a bit faster (Più allegro) and concluded by an elaborate fugue, crafted on its second part, "and the firmament sheweth his handywork". In Vollendet ist das große Werk, the chorus frames a slow trio section by two different fast movements. In Von deiner Güt, o Herr und Gott (By thy goodness, O bounteous Lord), the soloists sing a duet, accompanied by triplets, while the choir with the timpani sings simultaneously, as a soft foundation in even rhythm speaking of eternity, Gesegnet sei des Herren Macht (Forever blessed be his pow'r).[2]

The orchestra plays a distinct role in word painting. For example, flute and clarinet imitate the singing of the birds, trombones and contrabassoon articulate the roaring of the lion. When God speaks in person, "Seid fruchtbar" (be fruitful), the bass voice is accompanied by the low strings only. The solemn sound is reminiscent of the string quartet accompanying the Vox Christi (voice of Christ) in Bach's St Matthew Passion. The cellos have the melody speaking of human love, three flutes illustrate Paradise.

Richard Wigmore summarizes: "In our own sceptical and precarious age we can still delight, perhaps with a touch of nostalgia, in Haydn’s unsullied optimism, expressed in some of the most lovable and life-affirming music ever composed."[1]

General notes

The following tables are organized by a number and first line of the movements. Different numbering of the movement exists. The voices are sometimes abbreviated S for soprano, T for tenor, B for bass. The modulating keys of many recitatives are written in accidentals. Recitatives typically come without a tempo marking. If no source is given, the text is derived from Paradise Lost. The book of Genesis is abbreviated "Gen", the Book of Psalms "Ps". The English translations are taken from the edition of the Oxford University Press, 1991.

Part I

No. Title Form Voice Key Tempo Time Source Translation Notes
Die Vorstellung des ChaosC minorLargoThe Representation of Chaos
Day 1
1Im Anfange schuf Gott Himmel und ErdeRecitativeBassC minorGen 1:1–2In the beginning God created Heaven and Earth
Und der Geist Gottes schwebteChorusGen 1:2–3And the Spirit of God moved[n 1]
Und Gott sah das LichtRecitativeTenorC majorGen 1:4And God saw the light
2Nun schwanden vor dem heiligen StrahleAriaTenorA majorAndanteNow vanished by the holy beams
Erstarrt entflieht der Höllengeister ScharAllegro moderatoAffrighted fled hell's spirits
Verzweiflung, Wut und SchreckenChorus, fugueDesparing, cursing rage
Day 2
3Und Gott machte das FirmamentRecitative seccoBassGen 1:6–7And God made the firmament
4Mit Staunen sieht das WunderwerkSolo with chorusSopranoC majorAllegro moderatoThe marv'lous work beholds amazed
Day 3
5Und Gott sprach: Es sammle sich das WasserRecitative seccoBassGen 1:9–10And God said let the waters
6Rollend in schäumenden WellenAriaBassD minorAllegro assaiRolling in foaming billows
7Und Gott sprach: Es bringe die Erde Gras hervorRecitative seccoSopranoGen 1:11And God said, Let all the earth bring forth grass
8Nun beut die Flur das frische GrünAriaSopranoB-flat majorAndante6/8Now robed in cool refreshing green
9Und die himmlischen Heerscharen verkündigten den dritten Tag' Recitative seccoTenorAnd the Heavenly host proclaimed the third day
10Stimmt an die SaitenChorusD majorVivaceAwake the harp
Day 4
11Und Gott sprach: Es sei'n Lichter an der Feste des HimmelsRecitative seccoTenorGen 1:14–16And God said : Let there be lights in the firmament of heaven
12In vollem Glanze steiget jetzt die Sonne strahlend aufRecitativeTenorD majorAndanteIn splendour bright is rising now the sun
Mit leisem Gang und sanftem SchimmerPiú AdagioWith softer beams and milder light
Den ausgedehnten HimmelsraumPiú AdagioThe space immense of th'azure sky
13Die Himmel erzählen die Ehre GottesChorusC majorAllegroPs 19:1The heavens are telling the glory of God
Dem kommenden Tage sagt es der TagTrioS B TPs 19:2To day that is coming speaks it the day
Die Himmel erzählen ...ChorusThe heavens are telling ...
Dem kommenden Tage ...TrioS B TTo day that is coming ...
Die Himmel erzählen ...ChorusPiù allegroThe heavens are telling ...
Und seiner Hände WerkChorus, fuguePs 19:1The wonder of his workssecond part of Ps 19:1

Part II

No. Title Form Voice Key Tempo Time Source Translation Notes
Day 5
14Und Gott sprach: Es bringe das Wasser in der Fülle hervorRecitativeSopranoAllegroGen 1:20And God said : Let the waters bring forth in plenty
15Auf starkem Fittiche schwinget sich der Adler stolzAriaSopranoF majorModeratoOn mighty wings the eagle proudly soars aloft
16Und Gott schuf große WalfischeRecitative seccoBassGen 1:21–22And God created great whales
Seid fruchtbar alleRecitativePoco AdagioBe fruitful all
17Und die Engel rührten ihr' unsterblichen HarfenRecitative seccoBassAnd the angels struck their immortal harps
18In holder Anmut stehnTrioS T BA majorModerato2/4In fairest raiment
19Der Herr ist groß in seiner MachtTrio and chorusS T BVivaceThe Lord is great in his might
Day 6
20Es bringe die Erde hervor lebende GeschöpfeRecitative seccoBassGen 1:24And God said : Let earth bring forth the living creature
20Gleich öffnet sich der Erde SchoßRecitativeBassPrestoAt once Earth opens her womb[n 2]
Das zackig HauptPresto6/8The nimble stag
Auf grünen MattenAndante6/8The cattle in herds
Wie Staub verbreitet sichAndanteUnnumbered as the sands
In langen ZügenAdagioIn long dimensions
21Nun scheint in vollem Glanze der HimmelAriaBassD majorAllegro maestoso3/4Now shines heaven in the brightest glory
22Und Gott schuf den MenschenRecitative seccoTenorGen 1:27, Gen 2:7And God created Man
23Mit Würd' und Hoheit angetanAriaTenorC majorAndanteIn native worth and honor clad
24Und Gott sah jedes DingRecitative seccoBassGen 1:31And God saw every thing
26Vollendet ist das große WerkChorusB-flat majorVivaceFulfilled at last the great work
27Zu dir, o Herr, blickt alles aufTrioS T BE-flat majorPoco Adagio3/4Ps 145:15–16All look up to thee, O Lord
28Vollendet ist das große WerkChorusB-flat majorVivaceFulfilled at last the great work
Alles lobe seinen NamenChorus, fuguePs 148:13Glory to his name forever

Part III

No. Title Form Voice Key Tempo Time Source Translation Notes
29Aus Rosenwolken brichtRecitativeTenorE majorLargo3/4In rosy mantle appears
30Von deiner Güt, o Herr und Gott / Gesegnet sei des Herren MachtDuet with chorusS BC majorAdagioBy thy goodness, O bounteous Lord / Forever blessed be his Pow'r
Der Sterne hellster / Macht kund auf eurer weiten BahnDuet with chorusS BF majorAllegretto2/4Of stars the fairest / Proclaim in your extended course
Heil dir, o Gott!chorusHail, bounteous Lord!
31Nun ist die erste Pflicht erfülltRecitativeS BAllegroOur first duty we have now performed
32Holde Gattin, dir zur SeiteDuetS BE-flat majorAdagio3/4Sweet companion, at thy side
Der tauende MorgenAllegro2/4The dew dropping morn
33O glücklich Paar, und glücklich immerfortRecitative seccoTenorO happy pair, and ever happy henceforth
34Singt dem Herren alle Stimmen!ChorusB-flat majorAndanteSing the Lord, ye voices all
Des Herren Ruhm, er bleibt in EwigkeitChorus (fugue) with soliS A T BAllegroThe praise of the Lord will endure forever


  1. suddenly forte in C major on "light"
  2. various keys and tempo markings to illustrate different animals



  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Richard Wigmore (10 January 2009). "Franz Joseph Haydn (1732–1809) / The Creation (Die Schöpfung), HobXXI/2 (1796–8)" (PDF). Barbican Centre. p. 3. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 January 2012. Retrieved 29 September 2011.
  2. 1 2 Dorothee Rex (2007). "Joseph Haydn Die Schöpfung" (PDF) (in German). luzerner-kantorei.ch. pp. 2, 4. Retrieved 1 October 2011.
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