Monday, September 17, 2012

Die Jahreszeiten (The Seasons) by Joseph Haydn

Each summer, Bonnie and I try to attend at least one of the evening concert at Grant Park in Chicago. This year we made a Saturday evening performance by the Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus under the direction of Carlos Kalmar of the epic oratorio The Seasons by Joseph Haydn. It is epic in that a full performance takes two hours to perform. I do not remember previously hearing even parts, but with three strong soloists and a huge chorus, it was glorious.

If you have ever heard a Christmas performance of The Messiah by George Frideric Handel, imagine that kind of music but longer. (The Messiah is much longer, too, when played in full.) There are orchestral parts, recitatives with voice and harpsichord, arias, and big choral blockbusters. Everything was impression, except the lyrics sung in English. "Come, sweet maidens, let us wander o'er the glowing fields" is a representative line. Haydn himself complained about the lyrics that he was commissioned to set to music. He preferred his previous oratorio The Creation. (I want to hear it, too.) Most of the time, I could not actually understand the lyrics, so I was not distracted from the music.

The next week I borrowed Die Jahreszeiten (The Seasons) by Joseph Haydn performed by the London Symphony Chorus and London Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Sir Colin Davis. The oratorio is sung in German! It is fabulous in German. I listened to the two CDs three times through in the next several weeks, mostly while driving or cooking. I hoped to memorize some of the melodies, but I failed. I can not hum any part now, but I did enjoy imagining myself like Inspector Morse driving around in a hot red sports car with the opera cranked up. (For the record, we have a modest green car.) 

Here is a sample from "Winter" so you can see if you might also enjoy Haydn's The Seasons.

No comments: