Chapter 7 Early Performances of Haydn’s Creation in the American South: The Moravian Connection

In: Moravian Americans and their Neighbors, 1772-1822
Stewart Carter
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After Joseph Haydn’s oratorio Die Schöpfung (The Creation) premiered in Vienna in 1798, it quickly became popular throughout Europe. Music-loving Moravians in America, eager to perform European masterworks, particularly those by German or Austrian composers, obtained a copy of Haydn’s score not long after its initial publication in 1803. When Moravians in Bethlehem began to plan a performance of this masterwork, they needed parts for instrumentalists as singers. Since parts had not yet been published, the indefatigable Moravian pastor and musician Johann Friedrich Peter set about copying them from the score. The work was performed (though apparently not in its entirety) in Bethlehem in 1811 under the direction of David Moritz Michael. Some eighteen years later, on 4 July 1829, the Moravians of Salem, North Carolina, mounted their own performance of the work, using a second set of parts, also prepared by J. F. Peter.

Using written accounts, contemporary newspaper articles, and surviving music, my paper addresses some of the issues surrounding the Salem performance of 1829. It compares this event, the first performance of Haydn’s masterwork in the American South, with what little is known of the 1811 performance in Bethlehem. It identifies the 1829 performance as a watershed in the history of music in Salem, after which the performance of large-scale European masterworks declined significantly as more popular forms of music began to take hold in Wachovia.

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