Spring from The Seasons by Franz Joseph Haydn
As a special treat this week, the Wolffster has decided to give his audience a sneak peak at Haydn’s “The Seasons”. This coming Saturday, the 27th of August 2011, the Victorian Youth Symphony Orchestra (VYSO) will be performing “Spring” from “The Seasons” at Melbourne High School. Feel free to contact the Wolffster for further concert information.
Winter fades away, its’ cold icy grip loosens from the bleak landscape. Snow melts away from the hills revealing flower covered meadows of rich dark luscious greens. Palettes of pink, of yellow, stand in bright contrast to the browns and greys of a tiny alpine village. Peasant folk emerge from their houses to the sounds of rejoice. Come, gentle spring they whisper.
In the Spring of 1801, The Seasons received its’ world premiere in Vienna. The work that many consider to be the counterpart to The Creation was carefully crafted over the period of two years. The libretto was presented to Haydn by Baron Gottfried van Swieten, of whom Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a protégé.
We are introduced to Simon (a farmer), Hanne (his daughter), and Lukas (a young peasant). Through of series of commentaries and running conversations their world comes to life. We hear stories and tales of peasants plowing fields, of abundance, and omnipotence of an all merciful infinite God. Haydn was a devout Catholic and much of his later choral work was composed along these lines. The Seasons, divided into four parts (Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter), are the result of a composer in the heights of his powers. A composer recently returned from London, and inspired by the oratorios and choral works of Georg Friedrich Händel.
As the idyllic scenes painted by Haydn`s score unfold, we are prithee to a rich tapestry of rural folk life and imagery. Baron Van Swieten closely collaborated with Haydn during the composition of the work. In many instances, Haydn sought his advice on artistic matters including agricultural symbolism.
Sublime scoring and orchestration give the audience a rich and fruitful palette of sound. Haydn was in the twilight years of his long and distinguished career. Composed with an oratorio style in mind, The Seasons represent a newer, modern Singspiel style. And in doing so, he ensured that his work earned a place with new audiences both in his day and ours.
©Christopher McLeod, 2011
Portrait: Franz Joseph Haydn by Thomas Hardy, 1792. Source: Public Domain Portrait (Source: commons.wikimedia.org)
Edition Eulenburg, 1980, Haydn the Seasons, Score, Eulenburg Ltd., Switzerland.
Kamien, R, 2000, Music an Appreciation, 7th edn, McGraw Hill, Sydney.
Larsen, JP 1982, The new Grove Haydn, MacMillan London Limited, Hong Kong, pp. 70-78, pp. 117-121.
Robbins Landon, HC & Wyn Jones, D 1988, Haydn: his life and music, Thames and Hudson, Germany, pp. 316-337