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The Four Seasons

From the boundless majesty of the summer sun in Haydn’s Die Jahreszeiten to the frosty snow and shivering winds of Vivaldi’s Winter, this week is dedicated to music inspired by the changing seasons. Come and find out how something as natural and routine as the seasons and the changes between them can inspire a wide variety of music.

 
Program 1

The segment begins with "Der Fruhling"--Spring--from Haydn's oratorio Die Jahreszeiten--The Seasons. The piece begins stormily, as if in the depths of winter, until the clouds break and spring arrives, prompting a trio of peasants to give thanks for spring's coming. Oddly enough, the piece quotes right from Haydn's famous Surprise Symphony (C-C-E-E-G-G-E, F-F-D-D-B-B-G) as part of a little joke Haydn played on his Austrian audience, who had not heard the London-published Surprise Symphony yet. Before we hear the piece proper, we hear a guest vocal appearance from engineer Bill Sigmund. Next we move to piano music from Tchaikovsky: three pieces from a set of work representing each month of the year. In keeping with our spring theme for this part of the program, we listen to the slow, solemn pieces representing April, May, and June--the months of spring. Next is an extreme contrast of style: "Primavera Porteno", from Piazzolla's Four Seasons of Buenos Aires, bombastic music written by an Argentine master of tango. The segment then closes with a piece called "Sacred Rain", composed very recently by Dr. James Cross of Washington.

Haydn: Der Frühling fr. Die Jahreszeiten
RIAS Chamber Chorus & Freiburg Baroque/Jacobs; Peterson, sop.; Güra, ten.; Henschel, bar.
HM 901829
18:21, 10:22
Purchase

Tchaikovsky: April, May and June fr. The Seasons, Op. 37a
Bronfman, p.
Sony 60689
11:11
Purchase

Piazzolla: Primavera Porteño fr. Four Seasons of Buenos Aires
Trio Solisti
Bridge 9296
4:54
Purchase

Cross: Sacred Rain
O’Riley, p.
live recording
3:12
More information about the composer

 
Program 2

The segment begins with "Der Sommer", from Haydn's Jahrezeiten, but despite the subject matter the piece does not sound summery at first. This is because of Haydn's desire to inject some drama into the source material, both in the first part before sunrise and in the second part during a summer storm. We then continue with more of Tchaikovsky's seasonal pieces for piano: in keeping with the summer theme established, we hear July, August, and September. The segment then concludes with another lively piece from Piazzolla: Verano Porteno, again representing summer. But just over a minute in, Piazzolla quotes from Vivaldi's four seasons...from the winter section! Despite this bit of humor, the piece is still as wild and vivacious as was heard last time.

Haydn: Der Sommer fr. Die Jahreszeiten
RIAS Chamber Chorus & Freiburg Baroque/Jacobs; Peterson, sop.; Güra, ten.; Henschel, bar.
HM 901829
24:11, 9:25
Purchase

Tchaikovsky: July, August & September fr. The Seasons
Bronfman, p.
Sony 60689
8:13
Purchase

Piazzolla: Verano Porteño
Gidon Kremer & Kremerata Baltica
Nonesuch 79568
6:03
Purchase

 
Program 3

This segment surrounds autumn, and begins with Haydn's "Der Herbst" once again from Jahrezeiten. The focus in both parts this time is on the hunt, first with the father of the family pursuing a quail and then with the entire village joining in...until the wine arrives. Next are three more of Tchaikovsky's seasonal pieces: October, November, and December. The segment then closes out with Piazzolla's work--Otono Porteno from Four Seasons of Buenos Aries--in a manner that contrasts with the previous samplings we've heard from Piazzolla this week. Instead of rambunctious and wild, Otono Porteno is more reserved and waltzlike, as the world winds down for the looming winter.

Haydn: Der Herbst fr. Die Jahreszeiten
English Baroque Soloists & Monteverdi Choir/Gardiner; Bonney, s.; Johnson, ten.; Schmidt, bar.
Archiv 431818
21:29, 11:28, 1:13
Purchase

Tchaikovsky: October, November and December fr. The Seasons
Bronfman, p.
Sony 60689
11:30
Purchase

Piazzolla: Otoño Porteño
Barenboim, p.; Mederos, band.; Console, db.
Teldec 13474
4:53
Purchase

 
Program 4

This segment begins in the bleak of winter with "Der Winter" from Haydn's Jahrezeiten, a sombre and dramatic piece that showcases Haydn's obsession with sturm und drang. The second bit of "Winter" brings the whole thing to a triumphant conclusion, even after winter's bleakness has pervaded everything. Next are the last few pieces from Tchaikovsky's Seasons: January, February, and March, the winter months. The segment closes with "Invierno porteno", the most melancholy of Piazzolla's otherwise joyous and wild Seasons of Buenos Aires, showing that even a hot Argentine city has sombre moods as well.

Haydn: Der Winter fr. Die Jahreszeiten
RIAS Chamber Chorus & Freiburg Baroque/Jacobs; Peterson, sop.; Güra, ten.; Henschel, bar.
HM 901829
20:27, 10:37
Purchase

Tchaikovsky: January, February & March fr. The Seasons
Bronfman, p.
Sony 60689
9:57
Purchase

Piazzolla: Invierno porteño fr. Seasons of Buenos Aires
Gidon Kremer & Kremerata Baltica
Nonesuch 79568
6:42
Purchase

Program 5

The fifth and final segment of The Four Seasons brings us to the most famous of all seasonal pieces: Vivaldi's The Four Seasons. It begins, as Haydn's oratorio did, with Spring, with the sounds of birds and babbling brooks heralding sunny days interrupted by a few rainstorms. Summer displays bird songs during hot, lazy days all frightened away by the dark, violent thunderstorm. Autumn arrives, and with it so do the harvests and the tremendous amounts of drinking...only to go hunting the next day. Then Winter closes the piece, blowing fierce winds that chill to the bone, the only respite located inside by the fire before bed. As the show closes out, an excerpt from James P. Johnson's Snowy Morning Blues plays underneath.

Vivaldi: Violin Concerto In E, RV 269, Spring fr. The Four Seasons
LPO/Perlman; Perlman, v.
EMI 74761
10:45
Purchase

Vivaldi: Violin Concerto in G Minor, RV 315: Summer fr. The Four Seasons
Gidon Kremer & Kremerata Baltica
Nonesuch 79568
9:52
Purchase

Vivaldi: Violin Concerto In F, RV 293, Autumn fr. The Four Seasons
The English Concert/Pinnock; Standage, v.
Archiv 400045
10:42
Purchase

Vivaldi: Violin Concerto in F Minor, RV 297, Winter fr. The Four Seasons
Orpheus Chamber Orchestra; Shaham, v.
DG 439933
8:41
Purchase

James P. Johnson: Snowy Morning Blues (excerpt)
Johnson, p.
GRP 604
1:13
Purchase

 

 

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