Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) composed Die Schöpfung (The Creation) as he was approaching the end of a long and very successful musical career. The German language version of the oratorio had its public premiere in Vienna in 1799; the English language version premiered in London in 1800. It was an instant hit, and remains beloved more than two centuries after Haydn’s death.
Exactly who wrote the libretto — an amalgam of excerpts from the book of Genesis, the Psalms, and Milton’s Paradise Lost — is a subject of some dispute among music historians. Many believe that it was Charles Jennens, who also wrote the libretto for Handel’s Messiah. But the music is pure Haydn, at his most brilliant, exuberant, reverent, and joyful.