|Miriam Meyer, soprano |
James Taylor, tenor
Ralf Lukas, bass
Enoch zu Guttenberg, conductor
|Recorded at the Margravial Opera House Bayreuth, October 2004 |
|After the huge success that Haydn had with his oratorio The Creation, he was immediately asked to compose another work in the same genre. Baron van Swieten, the librettist of The Creation offered to translate The Seasons, a cycle of poems by the Scottish writer James Thomson, from English into German. The cooperation with the Viennese aristocrat was exhausting for the nearly seventy year old Haydn. When in addition van Swieten attempted to influence Haydn’s style of composition this became for a while the subject of some discord. "The Seasons has finished me off" Haydn said. "I shouldn’t have composed it." In the entire oratorio nothing is to be heard of the bothersome history of the piece. Quite the opposite: Joseph Haydn cleverly manages to captivate his audience with a diversity of ideas and richness of sounds. |
The oratorio comprises four parts, corresponding to spring, summer, autumn and winter; with arias recitatives and choruses. It describes the course of nature during the year from the point of view of country folk, their farming activities, their joys and fears of the weather, along with their lives in the village community.
In Spring Haydn conjures up most cleverly the awakening of nature, Summer illustrates growth as well as exhaustion, the long awaited rain and threatening storms; Autumn describes the joys of the peasants over the harvest, along with the start of the hunt. The bleak sounds of Winter conjure up in our minds the heavy snowfall of those times.
Enoch zu Guttenberg’s intention is to pass on messages through music. For him as a dogged advocate of ecologically oriented policy, ‘The Seasons’ is a veritable denouncement. A criticism of what we are doing to planet Earth. This symbiosis of man and nature, as it is presented in The Seasons is something which he was still just able to experience as a child. Today when conducting The Seasons, he is filled with nostalgia for his first experiences of nature, which back then were still as Haydn presented them in Winter. A season which in this manner will occur no more. In 1790, when Haydn came to England he witnessed the beginnings of industrialisation. Enoch zu Guttenberg believes that if one listens to The Seasons, bearing this in mind, one is to a degree overcome with the feeling that the composer already sensed the coming climate change, and knew that nature as he described it in the work would not remain as it was for much longer. From this perspective the work acquires a profoundness which far exceeds the apparent banality of the text.
In the additional bonus track Enoch zu Guttenberg talks in depth about Haydn’s perception of man and nature in modern times and in this connection elaborates on his interpretation of the work.
The orchestra KlangVerwaltung which Enoch zu Guttenberg has conducted since it was founded in 19.0097, presents us with all the nuances of a transparent and great orchestral sound. The Neubeuern Choral Society impresses listeners with its wonderful sound and clear diction. Coupled with well chosen soloists, this powerful work from Haydn’s late period made an exciting concert experience.