Herbert von Karajan

Joseph Haydn: Die Jahreszeiten

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Die Jahreszeiten, or The Seasons, is not as well loved as Haydn's other late oratorio, The Creation; here Haydn tried to force pastoral imagery -- by 1801 a set of ideas that had been musically rehashed for centuries -- into his late and in many respects proto-Romantic musical language. He resented, he wrote to a correspondent, having to compose "French trash" at one point in the score that called for frog sounds, and the score contains a menagerie of other rustic creatures and sounds -- shepherds, shepherdesses, horn calls, birds, trees, bees, herbs, fish, roosters, rifle shots, thunder and lighting, stags, sunrises, and sunsets, among others. Yet the work is a strange mixture of cute and exultant. In the big sunrise near the beginning of the Summer section, Haydn almost suggests Mahler. The comparison is not frivolous, for one early performance of the work is said to have involved 400 musicians. Thus, of all Haydn's works, this one (and The Creation) would seem least likely to be afflicted by the strains placed on his subtle musical language by the weight of a large modern symphony orchestra. Nevertheless, this early '70s reading by Herbert von Karajan, the Deutsche Oper Chorus, and Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra is lifeless. The big orchestral passages are appropriately imposing, but Karajan attempts to infuse the rest of the work with similar seriousness of purpose -- when what it really needs is a dose of comedy. The recitatives of the peasants Simon and Lukas are often inexplicably slow; Karajan seems to be trying to accentuate the drama of the natural phenomena depicted in the score, but a lot of the delicacy at the local level, including the levels of humorous detail in the orchestration, is lost. There is a lot of richness in this recording, and the soloists, especially soprano Gundula Janowitz, have a feel for the material, but this is not one of the comparatively few recordings that makes Die Jahreszeiten come alive -- try the one by conductor René Jacobs with the RIAS-Kammerchor and Freiburg Barockorchester, or, if you prefer modern instruments, that with the somewhat drier Karl Böhm leading the Wiener Singverein, now reissued on a budget Deutsche Grammophon double-disc set.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Die Jahreszeiten (The Seasons), oratorio, H. 21/3
1
6:12 Amazon
2
3:44 Amazon
3
0:27 Amazon
4
3:29 Amazon
5
0:34 Amazon
6
6:30 Amazon
7
1:21 Amazon
8
6:42 Amazon
9
6:18 Amazon
10
4:57 Amazon
11
3:13 Amazon
12
5:03 Amazon
13
0:38 Amazon
14
1:28
15
4:17 Amazon
16
5:08 Amazon
17
6:36 Amazon
18
2:54
19
4:38 Amazon
20
4:58 Amazon

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Die Jahreszeiten (The Seasons), oratorio, H. 21/3
1
1:53 Amazon
2
1:10 Amazon
3
7:13 Amazon
4
1:01 Amazon
5
9:09
6
1:02
7
3:18
8
0:40
9
4:01
10
1:06
11
7:42
12
3:40
13
3:13
14
2:37
15
2:12
16
3:59
17
1:15
18
2:57
19
0:23
20
3:30
21
0:49
22
2:16
23
2:30
24
6:12
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