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Joseph Haydn – The Seasons

Joseph Haydn –  The Seasons

Recorded at the Grosser Saal, Musikverein in Viena between April and May 1967.

About this work:
The Seasons (German: Die Jahreszeiten) is an oratorio by Joseph Haydn (H. 21/3). Haydn was led to write The Seasons by the great success of his previous oratorio The Creation (1798), which had become very popular and was in the course of being performed all over Europe. The libretto for The Seasons was provided to Haydn, just as with The Creation, by Baron Gottfried van Swieten, an Austrian nobleman who had also exercised an important influence on the career of Mozart. Van Swieten’s libretto was his own rendering into German of extracts from the long English poem “The Seasons” by James Thomson (1700-1748), which had been published in 1730. The composition process was arduous for Haydn, in part because his health was gradually failing and partly because Haydn found van Swieten’s libretto to be rather taxing. Haydn took two years to complete the work. The premiere, in Vienna on April 24, 1801, was considered a clear success, but not a success comparable to that of The Creation. In fact, this has been the critical verdict on The Seasons ever since, and to this day it is performed considerably less often than the earlier oratorio. It is widely felt that the blame lies not with Haydn, who remained at the height of his powers musically, but with the libretto. Oratorios typically are written on weighty subjects, such as episodes and characters from the Christian religion or heroes of classical mythology, but the libretto of The Seasons is mostly about the weather and about everyday life. The stirring final solo and chorus, which take up weightier matters (the meaning of life, the last trumpet, the eternal afterlife), might be taken to show what a remarkable work Haydn could have composed had he had access to a more serious libretto. Like The Creation, The Seasons is a bilingual work. Since Haydn was very popular in England (particularly following his visits there in 1791-2 and 1794-5), he wished the work to be performable in English as well as German. Van Swieten therefore retranslated the Thomson original back into English, fitting it to the rhythm of the music. The resulting English text has not always proven satisfying to listeners; for example, one critic writes, “Clinging to [the] retranslation, however, is the heavy-handed imagery of Haydn’s sincere, if officious, patron. Gone is the bloom of Thomson’s original. The Seasons is written for a fairly large late-Classical orchestra, a chorus singing mostly in four parts, and three vocal soloists, representing archetypal country folk: Simon (bass), Lucas (tenor), and Hanne (soprano). The solo voices are thus the same three as in The Creation.
There is some evidence that Haydn himself was not happy with van Swieten’s libretto, at least one particular aspect of tone-painting it required, namely the portrayal of the croaking of frogs, which is found during the serene movement that concludes Part II, “Summer”. The version of the anecdote given below is from the work of Haydn scholar H. C. Robbins Landon. In 1801, August Eberhard Müller (1767-1817) prepared a piano version of the oratorio’s orchestra part, for purposes of rehearsal and informal performance. Haydn, whose health was in decline, did not take on this task himself, but he did look over a draft of Müller’s work and wrote some suggested changes in the margins. Amid these changes appeared an off-the-cuff complaint about van Swieten’s libretto: This whole passage, with its imitation of the frogs, was not my idea: I was forced to write this Frenchified trash. This wretched idea disappears rather soon when the whole orchestra is playing, but it simply cannot be included in the pianoforte reduction. Robbins Landon continues the story as follows: “Müller foolishly showed the passage in the enclosed sheet, quoted above, to the editor of the Zeitung fur die elegante Welt,[3] who promptly included it in support of his criticism of Swieten’s wretched libretto. Swieten was enraged, and [Haydn’s friend] Griesinger reported that His Excellency “intends to rub into Haydn’s skin, with salt and pepper, the assertion that he [Haydn] was forced into composing the croaking frogs.” A later letter of Griesinger’s indicates that the rift thus created was not permanent. The term “Frenchified trash” was almost certainly not a gesture of contempt for France or French people; Haydn in fact had friendly relationships with French musicians (see, e.g. Paris symphonies). Rather, Haydn was probably referring to an earlier attempt by van Swieten to persuade him to set the croaking of the frogs by showing him a work by the French composer André Grétry that likewise included frog-croaking.

Track List:
cd1:
01. Mirad como el duro invierno se va (Bajo) (5:41)
02. Ven dulce primavera (Coro) (3:48)
03. Por fin los rayos del Sol (Bajo) (0:35)
04. Con alegría trabaja el labrador (Bajo) (3:46)
05. El labrador ha hecho su parte (Tenor) (0:33)
06. Se propicio dulce cielo (Tenor-Coro) (6:07)
07. Nuestras plegarias son escuchadas (Soprano) (1:00)
08. Oh, tan amable la primavera (Soprano-Tenor-Coro) (5:04)
09. Gracioso Dios de luz y vida (Sop-Ten-Bajo-Coro) (5:03)
10. Su rostro cubierto de rocío (Tenor-Bajo) (3:47)
11. Desde el redil el pastor las guía (Bajo) (3:06)
12. El Sol remonta (Sop-Ten-Bajo-Coro) (4:34)
13. Todo se anima en el campo (Bajo) (1:32)
14. La naturaleza sucumbe bajo el peso (Tenor) (3:18)
15. Bienveindas sois, umbrosas arboledas (Soprano) (3:52)
16. Que placentero a los sentidos (Soprano) (4:44)
17. Mirad, la oscuridad emerge de las arboledas (Baj-Ten-Sop) (2:30)
18. Oh, la tormenta se aproxima (Coro) (3:54)
19. Las oscuras nubes se separan (Tenor-Soprano) (4:20)
cd2:
01. Los variados retoños (2:50)
02. Así la naturaleza recompensa ( Trio-Coro) (6:16)
03. Mirad ahora los avellanos (Trio) (1:06)
04. Vosotras alegres y bellas, venid (Tenor-Soprano) (7:34)
05. Donde estuvieron las generosas cosechas (Bajo) (0:58)
06. Mirad las vastas praderas (Bajo) (3:14)
07. Aquí el cerco se cierras sobre la liebre (Tenor) (0:42)
08. Escuchad, las montañas resuenan (Coro) (4:03)
09. El viñedo muestra su abundancia (Soprano) (1:07)
10. Hurra, aquí llega el vino (Coro) (6:22)
11. Introduccion (2:32)
12. Ya zozobra el pálido año (Bajo-Soprano) (2:19)
13. La luz y la vida languidecen (Soprano) (1:42)
14. De cristal se cubre el lago (Tenor) (1:31)
15. El viajero se detiene perplejo (Tenor) (4:05)
16. Como llega la noche (Trio) (1:17)
17. Gira, gira pequeña rueca (Soprano-Coro) (3:17)
18. Una doncella de un señor (Soprano) (3:32)
19. Del este llega (Bajo) (0:39)
20. 43. I – Piensa en esto, insensato (Bajo) (4:01)
21. Entonces rompe el alba gloriosa (Trio-Coro) (5:36)

The Players:

Stereo, ADD, mp3, 320 kbps, 300.09 Mb, 2 hours 11 minutes. Covers & info included.

Part1 —–  Part2 —–   Part3 —–   Part4

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