After the brilliant success of his last series of London Symphonies, Haydn went home to Vienna, recognized throughout Europe as the supreme master of both the symphony and the quartet; but his career was not yet over and the great master, now approaching seventy, responded to the accolades with a final burst of creative energy. Inspired by performances of Handel he had seen in London, Haydn concentrated his talents in the genre of oratorios and masses, providing us with a marvelous coda to a prolific career; his final masterpiece, The Seasons, completed in his sixty-ninth year.
Grove's Dictionary states that Haydn "put much of his greatest music into his oratorios" and this is quite evident in the bold, inventive quality of The Seasons. It is filled with a fresh feeling of innovation that can be attributed not only to what he had learned in London but also to the lasting influence of his great friend Mozart. The engaging melodies of the chorus and soloist are never overpowered by the orchestrations but are, instead, delightfully supported by a score that balances expression with refinement like none before.
Based on an adaptation of a popular nature poem by James Thomson, the text, though secular in subject matter, expresses a reverence for nature perfectly suited for the oratorio form. It was adapted and translated by Gottfried van Swieten, who also collaborated on Haydn's previous oratorio, The Creation. Today The Seasons remains a remarkably dramatic work that musicians and scholars turn to again and again.
This volume, reproduced from the authoritative C. F. Peters edition, is complete, with the most often performed English translation running directly beneath the German text in the score. Both singers and instrumentalists will find it an inexpensive and invaluable addition to their libraries; and music scholars will delight in this high-quality reproduction of the final statement from an influential genius.
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