Magazine article Musical Opinion

Haydn: The Seasons: LSO/Sir Colin Davis

Magazine article Musical Opinion

Haydn: The Seasons: LSO/Sir Colin Davis

Article excerpt

Joseph Haydn took a two-year labour to J complete The Seasons, which he managed to do for the April 1801 Vienna premiere of what would be one of his very last works. Such trials of composition were due to Haydn's uncertain health (he was at this time approaching his seventies) and also his lack of enthusiasm for Baron van Swieten's text, an adaptation (involving much cutting and additions) of James Thomson's original, which the Baron translated into German and then re-translated into English to fit Haydn's music. Although the intention was to emulate the same partnership's success with The Creation, such adulation was not forthcoming and The Seasons has tended to fall under its shadow ever since.

On the evening of June 27, officially the hottest day of the year thus far, Sir Colin Davis conducted a quite wonderful performance at the Barbican of music that was here imbued with remarkable vigour and beauty and which suggested that Haydn, however troubled the creative process might have been, was still able to fashion a work (two-plus hours in length) that is brimful of engaging invention and incident. A real sense of twinkle-in-the-eye joy and vitality informed this compelling performance, qualities emanating from the energetic and caring Davis and reciprocated by all those taking part - three superb soloists, a lusty (especially when praising wine!), sensitive and unanimous London Symphony Chorus and an LSO that relished the numerous solo, picturesque and virtuoso opportunities that Haydn invented with unflagging inspiration and imagination.

Using the German text, this performance fizzed and also searched the music for its full potential, but without losing spontaneity and suggestion. Immediately we were plunged into the gloom of Winter and then to an intense and rigorous orchestral introduction to Spring (each of the four cantatas is heralded by the orchestra alone) that Davis conducted with Beethoven ia p weight. …

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