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Haydn, The Creation editions in English

Hello Everyone,

Thank you all for your informative responses to my question regarding
editions of Haydn's "The Creation"?. Apologies for not getting
back to you sooner, but I was away, and then needed to figure out how
to accomplish the compilation! I apologize for the appearance--I am
not a wiz at the computer! My original question:

had planned to use the Shaw/Parker translation, as English would be more appropriate for our audience, and easier for the group.

But the edition looks so...hokey! Does anyone have experience using
this edition? Is there an edition with an English translation other than Gottfried van Swieten's? Any comments regarding editions--or advice re English vs. German would be so appreciated.>>

In my original inquiry, I used the unfortunate word "hokey"? to
describe my reaction to the Parker/Shaw edition. I was referring to
the appearance of the score, not necessarily the English version
itself. As we all know, the visual presentation of the notes/text
can either help or hinder the learning process. I was hoping that a
cleaner English edition existed.

I know this discussion will be helpful to many, as it was to me.

Barbara Jones
Stow, MA

We used the Watkins-Shaw Edition. The Robert Shaw vocal edition is
just that, a vocal edition and it works well with the WS
orchestration. Hope all goes well. cwright(a)

We actually used the Oxford edition about two seasons ago. Yes, it
also used the basic van Swieten English text but I think it is
slightly different from the Shaw (certainly a bit more
authoritative). It was interesting from both a choral and audience
educational stand-point: hokey at times, but it allowed me to speak
about some of the 18th-century-isms of language. There are certainly
alternatives, but in making excuses for the text is not ours to bare
-- once the choir gets past some of the odd text, it is easy to
communicated some of the interesting aspects of the van Swieten
English text. Take a look at the book _Performing Haydn's Creation_
by A. Peter Brown.

Regarding the German: as you know, it is certainly a valid choice.
The text was at first English and essentially translated into German
by van Swieten (not the opposite as many think). Definitely something
to be said about doing the work in the "original" English -- it can
be advertised this way and "issue" are easily covered in program
notes or remarks.

Have you looked at the old Vincent Novello/G. Schirmer edition? A
certain amount of "hoke" exists in all editions in English, I
fear ...dfreed(a)

The Shaw really is dated and terrible isn't it - and from an era when
this would have been acceptable I suppose, but it certainly doesn't seem the right thing to do nowadays.

I have spent so much time on this and have to wonder - why would we be concerned with not presenting the prose of Milton/ Milton's era which is largely what is presented in the van Swieten when we would never consider singing a Stabat Mater or Carmina Burana in a translation.

Yes, the language is not immediately graspable in a few places by modern ears - but neither is Shakespeare. A good libretto and program notes make the van Swieten easy to understand - certainly the basic gist of it is clearer than if you were to present a two hour work in latin or French.

And finally - it is absolutely clear that the composer wished it to
be sung in English. Die Schöpdfung/The Creation is an important historical event; the first major publication of a significant work in a bilingual edition.

Haydn conducted the piece in Italian in the translation by Carpani
and he clearly labored diligently with van Swieten to get the English as he wanted.

If it has a few infelicities in it - SO DOES the German edition,
which has some poorly worked translations of Milton in German.

Hope this helps.

PS - Bruce McIntyre's book on the Creation is a wonderful resource
and pulls together a lot of the research that has been produced since the 1970's .

Nicholas Temperley's article is a good one but there are some ideas
in it with which many disagree.

Peter Brown's Oxford edition presents detailed info on his research,
which is carefully outlined in his book "Performing the Creation" - a short monograph well worth reading which seems to me to have the final word.


I'd go with the Oxford edition--you then have the choice of English
or German and it's fully accurate and clean. (This is the edition used for the Hogwood period instrument recording on L'oiseau Lyre. . .)


Barbara: I sang that edition of "Creation" with Shaw in the early 70s
and it was wonderful. I think it's right to do it in English in
America. Jim Parker.


It's not that I have an opinion regarding the presentation of a work
in the local language, it's that this work in particular was composed
in two languages simultaneously, so in this case English is as
"authentic" as German. If so, it seems to me inappropriate to insist
on German for it in an anglophone country.

I do use the Temperley edition. It's a good, scholarly one and also
easy to read.


The last time I sang the Parker/Shaw in performance, it was a college
group with a pro orchestra- I don't remember anything about the font
then, but it was a bunch of kids with healthy eyes, you know. Every
time I have sung it since then- performances and community sings-
those other clunky translations bother me. I am planning to teach
"Awake the Harp" at the high school next year, and since we already
own the Schirmer editions, I may just may pencil in some text changes.


by far the best translation I have seen was done by one Jane May back
in the 70s I think....whether it got published I am not sure, but I used it and was very satisfied....know exactly what you ,mean by the Shaw translation

As memory serves, the van Swieten translation was made in conjunction
with the performances of "Creation" in Haydn's time, so it would seem
to be authoritative, hokey or not. (In a parallel way, the language
of Handel's "Messiah" could be updated to NRSV, but why would you
want to?)


I haven't heard of the Temperley edition--my first reaction is that,
although Peters is a German company, by his name it sounds like they have engaged an Englishman--possibly an American--to do the translation-- which will therefore no doubt be better than having a German do it-- I suggest you also get a copy of the G. Schirmer/Novello edition and compare the two.

The first time I did the St Matthew Passion was in English--second time in German!--for the English performance I ended up comparing texts from six different editions to come up with the best translation--it took a lot of time but was worth it--the same
will end up being true in your case.

Actually, the biggest chore of all in preparing a performance of "Creation" is figuring out how to treat the grace notes Haydn marked in--some people do them all ahead of the beat--some do all on the beat--neither of which work--there are some that have to be ahead, and some on the beat--then you have to mark the parts--but what a
wonderful piece--I envy you!--hope all goes well.


I used it several seasons ago with The Cantabile Singers and full
orchestra and it worked well for me.


I have sung creation several times- and I love the Parker/Shaw
edition- much more singable, meaningful, and musical. It pains me to
sing "Awake the Harp" with the 'old' translation.

I'm using the Kalmus parts and score, and have found them to be
fairly reliable (this is my third time with them.) I'm doing it with
a church choir of 60, and we have invited the local high school
advanced group of 32 to join us. We will have 6/6/4/4/2 plus the
prescribed winds in the orchestra. I haven't found any real pifalls
in this piece. I think it's a pleasure to work with, and the singers
enjoy it a great deal. I took it on a European tour in 1999, and even
found it worked well in a traveling situation with an Italian
orchestra we hired over there. To me, it has the appeal of "Messiah"
for amateur singers, but more elegance and approachability. I really
love it, and wish you the best with it.


actually, the Shaw edition is the best - nothing hokey about it!
Such an amazing improvement over the original translation. Go for it!


I say go for the German, if you add the translation in English in the
program notes then your audience will comprehend what is going on.


In case you aren't aware of it, there is another edition of "The
Creation," in this case edited by Vincent Novello and also
published by G. Schirmer--it is their edition no. 190.

I have conducted the piece twice--the first time I used the Novello
edition without alteration--in the intervening years I found the Shaw
edition and had basically the same response you did--a lot of it
seemed very strange--but after a second and then a third look at it

I found that several of the phrases were superior to some of the passages in the Novello edition--so for my second performance I still used the Novello edition as the basic score, but interpolated just a few textual changes, taken from the Shaw edition--especially in two arias: #7, "Rolling in foaming billows" and #22, "Now heav'n
in fullest glory shone."

In #7, the changes were extensive, e.g., "Rolling in foaming billows, uplifted, roars the boist'rous sea" became "Rolling in foaming billows, TUMULTUOUS SWELLS THE RAGING SEA"--and "Mountains
and rocks now emerge, their tops among the clouds arise" became "Mountains and rocks now emerge, THROUGH CLOUDS THEIR TOW'RING SUMMITS RISE." The most important change came in the third line of text--the extremely awkward original text, "Thro' th'open plains
outstretching wide in serpent error rivers flow" became "Thro' THE BROAD AND AMPLE PLAINS FULL FLOWS THE GATH'RING STREAM AND, OPEN, WANDERS. "Later on, the phrase "Softly purling . . . " became "Softly MURM'RING . . . "

The changes in #22 were less extensive, mainly changing the first two verbs to present tense (shone/shines and smil'd/smiles) but most importantly, replacing "The room of air with fowl is fill'd" with Shaw's "The air is fill'd with soaring processions."

So I think that you might find the Novello edition more suitable overall,but that if you do a phrase-by-phrase comparison of it with the Shaw edition,you may end up using the best of both.


There is one excellent edition of Creation in English: Nicholas
Temperley's, published by Peters.
There is no reason for an English-speaking choir to sing Creation for
an English-speaking audience in any language other than English; it
was the first major choral piece to be conceived and published
originally as a bilingual work.


You prob. know that the original poetry was Milton's, from Paradise
Lost, which Van Swieten translated into German, and which was
translated back into English for the original bi-lingual publication.
Anyway, what I have heard done, tho never done it, is to take
Milton's original and try to fix up the one in the Parker/Shaw
edition, which, by the way, is a big improvement over the original
published English version. Also, the Baron's German version is hokey


But the same thing applies, you just have to refer to Genesis and
Psalms in your favorite translations, as well as Milton.


I am doing that edition now. To what are you referring...the
typesetting? It is obviously not well-done, as this edition was
prepared in the 50s and 60s. If that is your concern, I've found my
choir members have gotten used to the look of it, and don't mention
it anymore. It certainly is far superior in translation to the van
Swieten. I also worked with Shaw, and he encouraged the continued
improvement of the translation, viewing it as a "work in progress."
Both he and Alice encouraged a continuous look at the language,
rhyming, musical stress, etc., and took no exception to changes.


I sang that edition while in undergrad school about 30 years ago. We
sang a couple of performances in different places and the audience/
congregation seemed to really like it. I liked the translation/
edition very much at that time. By hokey, are you referring to the
font/print or to something else? It is very unusual to say the least,
and I'm not sure why they did it that way.


It is actually a very good edition and the English adaptation by Shaw is, I believe, much more accessible to the audience. I used this edition several years ago and was extremely pleased with it.


That is the edition I have used. It is hokey but so is the German if
one understands it.

I am biased though, because it is not one of my favorite pieces, did
it out of necessity. I Like The Seasons much better.


The Creation is one of the few pieces I've seen that approaches
working in English as well as the original language (Elijah being
another). However, I am a strong advocate of original language
whenever possible. The meter/scanning of text usually is so much
better, and so many translations sound like they were written by the
Christian Right.

Having said that, I can't even think of what English edition I've
sung for Creation -- Tom Hall of Baltimore made his own for Concord
back in ... 1980? You might want to ask his opinion because whether
or not he's used it or another edition for another group, he would be
very much aware of what is out there. I know I've done many sections
of it in English for church and college choir, but the whole piece
only in German. (Masterworks, Concord, John Oliver)


If English is more appropriate for your audience, by all means use
English. I find the Shaw arrangements to be cumbersome because I grew
up on all of the old Schirmer editions. However, do use English for
your audience so that they can enjoy the performance.


Definitely English, try the Oxford University Press edition, it is A4
sixed, very useable