Haydn's The Seasons is a large-scale celebration of nature's ways
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Haydn's The Seasons is a large-scale celebration of nature's ways

The Seasons. Music by Joseph Haydn. Libretto by Gottfried van Swieten, based on The Seasons by James Thomson. ANU Choral Society conducted by Leonard Weiss.  Presbyterian Church of Saint Andrew, State Circle, Forrest, Saturday, May 26, 7pm. Tickets: trybooking.com/370219 and at the door.

When you're on a good thing, stick to it. Conductor Leonard Weiss says he decided to follow last year's well-received performance by the ANU Choral Society (SCUNA) of Haydn's oratorio The Creation with another work by the same composer and group.

Conductor Leonard Weiss.

Conductor Leonard Weiss. Credit:William Hall

Weiss says, "Haydn’s Creation was such an eye-opener to this Classical language and a true masterpiece of the genre, so I wanted to highlight one of Haydn's other, equally brilliant works.

The Seasons is one of Haydn’s finest works, weaving together sensational arias and exuberant choruses pieces combined with intricate orchestration into one magnificent whole.”

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Weiss says "It has been remarkable getting to know Haydn as a large-scale composer, having been primarily familiar with his works through his comparably shorter (usually around 20 minutes) symphonies and few concerti."

He says, "Haydn's writing of longer works is truly incredible. In terms of both musical language and stylistic construction, The Creation dwarfs a majority of other works in the mid-Classical period.

While the subject matter of The Seasons is somewhat more whimsical (or at least less grandiose), if anything Haydn's music is  even more witty and detailed than The Creation.

"Haydn manages to fit a tremendous amount of character and musical charm into a couple of hours' worth of music, with three demanding solo parts telling the story, all driven home by a hugely significant role for the chorus, serving to emphasise the more important and dramatic aspects of each season."

Weiss says the piece is cyclical, beginning dramatically with spring coming in at the end of winter and the key changing from G minor to G major.

"Most of spring is quite bright."

Summer, he says, is "a bit of a funny mix", celebrating the majesty of the sun - "he uses 'resplendent' a lot" - but also depicting a summer storm.

Autumn is a time of celebrating "industry" but ends with a thank-you to wine.

"There's a German-Austrian dance with a quite wonderful sense of joy."

And winter starts off hazy but becomes chillier before a final massed chorua welcomes the rebirth of spring once more.

The Creation was first performed in 1801. In order that the piece could be performed in two languages, librettist Gottfried van Swieten took sections of the English poem The Seasons by James Thomson, translated them into German  and back again into English "so the scansion is a bit funny," Weiss says.

Baritone soloist Simon Lobelson

Baritone soloist Simon Lobelson

Weiss says, "We're lucky to be joined by our highly commended soloists from The Creation: soprano Rachael Duncan, who was awarded a Canberra Critics' Circle award last year for her performance with us, and tenor Charles Hudson. And I'm honoured to be welcoming Simon Lobelson back to Canberra as our baritone for this performance."

Lobelson has more than 75 major opera roles to his name and numerous performances with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Opera Australia and companies overseas - not to mention multiple recordings of Haydn's best-known choral works.

The performance also features Dr Anthony Smith on the organ and an orchestra of local musicians.

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