Opera Scotland

Seasons The Seasons; Die Jahreszeiten

Music

Franz Joseph Haydn (born Rohrau, 31 March 1732; died Vienna, 31 May 1809)

Text

Gottfried van Swieten

Source

Poem The Seasons (1730) by James Thomson.

 

Premieres

First Performance: Vienna (Schwarzenberg Palace), 24 April 1801.

First Performance in UK

 

Background

The Seasons is an oratorio for three solo voices, chorus and orchestra. It was commissioned from Haydn following the success of The Creation, and the composer, now feeling his age, was extremely reluctant to embark on a further substantial project. He was tired and ill throughout the composition, though this is never transmitted to the music, which is light-hearted and joyous throughout.

 

Characters

Simon, a farmer (baritone)

Jane, Simon's daughter (soprano)

Lucas, Jane's suitor (tenor)

 

Summary

As with The Creation, where the work starts with an orchestral representation of primordial chaos, The Seasons begins with a depiction of the departure of Winter, to be succeeded by Spring, with flowers, green leaves, and the revival of animal and human life. Summer concentrates on the work done in the cool of the morning, the fatigue and enforced rest during the sultry heat of mid-day, when plants, people and animals all wilt, and the refreshing effects of a violent thunderstorm. This is followed by colourful depictions of animals, including crickets and frogs, before peace descends.

Autumn brings in the hard labour associated with the harvest, followed by the continuing courtship of Lucas and Jane, and then a colourfully illustrated hunting scene, with an exciting chase. The sequence ends with celebratory drinking and dancing. The concluding movement of Winter, shows weary travellers struggling home through the snow. Even if work outside is restricted, there are plenty of tasks for people to do indoors, such as spinning, as well as a certain amount of dalliance. The work ends cheerily, in spite of considering mortality and the afterlife.

The Cast

Jane
 Simon's daughter
Lucas
 Jane's suitor
Simon
 a farmer

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