Haydn was led to write this work at the instigation of Baron Gottfried van Swieten because of the great success of his previous oratorio,The Creation(1798), which was performed all over Europe at the time. Son of a famous Dutch court physician at the imperial court in Vienna, Van Swieten, who also played a major part in Mozart’s career, wrote the librettos for both works. The text concerned parts of the English series of poems The Seasonsby James Thomson(1700-1748), which Van Swieten himself translated into German. However, he shifted the scene to the Austrian countryside, sketching in his airy account an idealized image of rural farm life.
Haydn did not think much of the theme. He felt too old and too weary for this job. Compared to The Creation he considered the libretto too banal, and much stimulus by Van Swieten was needed to get the work finished. And yet, the result does not show any trace of Haydn’s reluctance. Even if the text by Van Swieten is a little on the vulgar and prosaic side, Haydn did feel inspired by it and wrote imaginative music testifying to fascinating observations and experiences of his own, especially in the case of this almost seventy-year old man. In essence it is about a series of fondly painted musical frescoes celebrating the nature which Haydn as a son of a wheelwright had lived in for the greater part of his life.
Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) The Seasons 1801
Orchestra of the Eighteenth
Century & Cappella Amsterdam
Marcus Creed conductor