Haydn: Die Jahreszeiten (The Seasons)

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

WORKS: Die Jahreszeiten (The Seasons)
PERFORMER: Miriam Meyer (soprano), James Taylor (tenor), Ralf Lukas (bass); Chorgemeinschaft Neubeuern, KlangVerwaltung/Enoch zu Guttenberg


Haydn’s oratorio is here performed under the auspices of the oddly named KlangVerwaltung (something like ‘sound administration’), founded by the maverick German conductor, environmentalist, nobleman and former vintner Baron Enoch zu Guttenberg. This highly presentable assembly of German musicians nevertheless suffers from the conductor’s own failure to motivate his performance.

Tempos are not always well chosen, and there’s an overall lack of momentum. While Guttenberg is alert to the picturesque touches that fill Haydn’s masterpiece, there is less character and individuality to the result than in several other performances.

 The soloists are perfectly able without being special. Soprano Miriam Meyer’s vocalism is pleasing and controlled, though there’s the tiniest hint of a wobble to the tone. James Taylor’s tenor, though on the thin side, is skilfully used. Ralf Lukas’s bass-baritone lacks warmth of resonance, and his singing is a shade effortful here and there. The amateur choir is generally assured though their approach is apt to be cautious.


 The recording, made in Bayreuth’s splendid ‘other’ theatre, the 18th-century Markgräfliches Opera House, captures the instrumental and vocal colours well, though the overall impression is of a repressed sound-picture rather than an open and spacious one. Guttenberg provides a useful 30-minute introduction to the oratorio, with musical examples, on a third CD contained within the packaging, though unfortunately it’s in German only. George Hall