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BCS - Concert Notes
BCS Next Concert

Concert Notes
The Seasons

7.30pm
20 October 2012

Bath Abbey

Bath Landscape Detail

Haydn visited England twice during the 1790s and on both occasions heard Handel's oratorios, including Messiah. He became determined to write an oratorio similar in scale - the result was The Creation. This became so popular that his librettist, Baron Gottfried van Swieten, encouraged Haydn to write a sequel. The composer overcame his initial reluctance and The Seasons eventually appeared in 1801.

The libretto prepared by Baron van Swieten originated from a long poem by the Scot, James Thomson, from which van Swieten selected extracts which he translated into German. He also inserted examples of his own brand of picturesque poetry. Although Haydn was irritated by this, it prompted him to produce some diverting musical portrayals. In the concert, the choir sang a new English translation by Michael Pilkington.

The story of a year in the countryside is told by a farmer, Simon, his daughter, Jane, her young friend, Luke, and a chorus of country lads and lasses. The orchestra provides both dramatic and highly pictorial support throughout.

The four seasons are liberally sprinkled with rustic dances, lullabies, dramatic fanfares and hymns of thanks. The orchestra portrays birds calling, lambs frolicking, and bees buzzing in the spring weather. After a vivid summer dawn, there is a thrilling thunderstorm. An exciting autumn hunt, filled with horn calls, is followed by a highly inebriated harvest celebration. In a winter scene, a traveller lost in the snow finds refuge with villagers, and an amusing story is told around the fire. Finally, we are given moral counsel that only the honest will enter through heaven's gates and a grand fugue brings an entertaining work to a satisfying conclusion.


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