Haydn: The Seasons

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Haydn
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: The Seasons
PERFORMER: Ruth Ziesak (soprano), Uwe Heilmann (tenor), René Pape (bass)Chicago SO & Chorus/Georg Solti
CATALOGUE NO: 436 840-2 DDD
People are astonished that Georg Solti, in his eighties, has the vigour and sparkle of a man 20 years his junior. Part of this amazing youthfulness is due to the fact that Solti has kept up with the latest historical research into, and the changes of attitude towards, composers like Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. His choice of tempi for this new recording of Haydn’s brilliantly successful oratorio, his overall pacing, and especially the balance between soloists, choir and the very large orchestra demanded by the score (including four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, ‘Turkish’ percussion and timpani), all reflect attitudes radically different from those prevailing 50 years ago, when Vittorio Gui made the first recording of the work for Cetra.

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Specifically, the tempi have greatly increased, both for quick as well as for slow movements, and the whole feeling for the music has become less heavy, less Germanic. The continuo group quite rightly includes harpsichord, cello and double bass. All the appoggiature in Solti’s reading are properly done: this ought to be self-evident, like the truths in the American Declaration of Independence; but it is not, alas, and there are many new recordings of vocal works by Haydn and Mozart where the appoggiature are wrongly interpreted.

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In short, Solti has given us the best recording on modern instruments of this standard work. (If you prefer period instruments, go for the Gardiner version.) HC Robbins Landon