Wednesday, 29 October 2008

186. Joseph Haydn - The Seasons (1801)


Title: Die Jhareszeiten
Performers: Gundula Janowitz, Werner Hollweg, Walter Berry, Berliner Philharmonic
Director: Herbert von Karajan
Year: 1972
Length: 2 hours 20 minutes


If the
Creation is Haydns most famous oratorio, The Seasons is the second most famous. It is not as uniformly amazing as the Creation, partially because the theme does not give itself to the spectacle of the creation of the world. Still it has its moments.

It is of these great moments that this oratorio lives, whether it is the storm in Summer, a hunt in Autumn or a song sung around the fire in Winter. This means however, that there is quite a lot of filler here, the recitatives are often not that interesting.

This is the last Haydn piece on the list and one of his last compositions, so we bid farewell to a truly great and innovative composer which is now unfairly in the shadow of Mozart, even if the two were completely different composers, with completely different styles and interests. Haydn's joy is contagious and when he wants to go dark the contrast is immense. This is a good oratorio, but it does not match some of Haydn's amazing instrumental work.

Final Grade



From Wikipedia:

Among the more rousing choruses are a hunting song with horn calls, a wine celebration with dancing peasants (foreshadowing the third movement of Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony), a loud thunderstorm (akin to Beethoven's fourth movement), and a stirring ode to toil (or to "industry" in some translations):

The huts that shelter us,
The wool that covers us,
The food that nourishes us,
All is thy grant, thy gift,
O noble toil.

Haydn remarked that while he had been industrious his whole life long, this was the first occasion he had ever been asked to write a chorus in praise of industry.
Some especially lyrical passages are the choral prayer for a bountiful harvest, "Sei nun gnädig, milder Himmel" (Be thou gracious, O kind heaven), the gentle nightfall that follows the storm, and Hanne's cavatina on Winter.

The work is filled with the "tone-painting" that also characterized The Creation: a plowman whistles as he works (in fact, he whistles the well-known theme from Haydn's own Surprise Symphony), a bird shot by a hunter falls from the sky, there is a sunrise (evoking the one in The Creation), and so on.

The beginning of Spring:

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