Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Haydn's The Seasons

Haydn’s oratorio The Seasons never quite lived up to the success of its predecessor The Creation. It suffers from a prosaic libretto (particularly the English translation) and moments of juvenile word-painting including a bagpipe ‘drone’ in the chorus and frog burps in the orchestra. But it has moments of sheer brilliance too: the breathless choral commentary on the hunt with glorious horn writing; the often quoted Spinning Chorus, and the peasant dance and storm which were predecessors to Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony. So it was well worth the efforts of the UWA Choral Society to mass the 100-strong choir, soloists and 30-piece orchestra required to present this large-scale piece.

 
UWA Choral Society, Winthrop Hall

Christopher van Tuinen conducted with assurance, leading from harpsichord for the recitatives. Concertmaster Shaun Lee-Chen led the freelance orchestra with emphatic style, highlighting the light and shade. There were plenty of rousing moments but the most gripping were the more intimate, like the sparse pizzicato raindrops and hushed timpani roll anticipating the summer storm.

Soprano soloist Jennifer Barrington sang with pearly tone and brought a sense of drama to her beautifully sustained lines. Tenor Andrew Sutherland delivered a gleaming “The traveller stands perplexed” but lacked projection at other times. Robert Hofmann’s baritone sounded forced at times but his crisp diction was appreciated in the reverberant Winthrop Hall (a printed libretto would also have been appreciated).

The choir gave a mixed performance. Outstanding moments included the warm, lush “Come, gentle Spring” and the clean, blended men’s chorus in “Now cease the conflicts”. But there was also droopy pitch in the sopranos and messy entries (particularly in the laboriously slow drinking song) which compromised an otherwise worthy performance.


This review copyright The West Australian 2013.

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