Trove Thursday looks forward to spring via Haydn’s beguiling oratorio Die Jahreszeiten (The Seasons) in a splendid rendition from the 1981 Salzburg Festival with Ileana Cotrubas, Francisco Araiza and José van Dam, James Levine conducting.  

Though his works include wrote some of the best symphonies, string quartets and piano sonatas ever written, Haydn just never got the hang of opera. His fourteen works for the Eszterházy family, though occasionally revived, rarely generate much enthusiasm, and he gave up opera after L’anima del filosofo (Orfeo ed Euridice) in 1791. But hearing Handel’s oratorios performed during his visits to London prompted him to return to vocal music. Die Schöpfung (The Creation) premiered in 1798 and proved a phenomenal success encouraging him to continue with The Seasons in 1801.This robust work in four parts opens with Spring and continues through the cycle, concluding with Winter.

During the late 1970s and early 1980s Levine was a fixture at the Salzburg Festival where he conducted the Vienna Philharmonic and the Chorus of the Vienna Staatsoper in this rare Haydn performance. Although he recorded The Creation with the Berlin Philharmonic and led it with the Boston Symphony and with Met forces at Carnegie Hall, I don’t believe he ever conducted The Seasons in the US. In fact, this may well be his only performance of it.

Haydn: Die Jahreszeiten
Salzburg Festival
19 August 1981
Hanne: Ileana Cotrubas
Lukas: Francisco Araiza
Simon: Jose van Dam

James Levine, conductor
Vienna Philharmonic
Chorus of the Vienna State Opera

Haydn’s oratorio as well as last week’s Dalibor by Smetana and all previous “Trove Thursday” offerings are available for download from iTunes or via any RSS reader.