“Jubilation!” (Kronen Zeitung) in the Great Festival Hall in Salzburg for Joseph Haydn's oratorio The Seasons with Nikolaus Harnoncourt conducting the Vienna Philharmonic. The conductor tunes his “Wiener” to peak performance and shows as few others can how “to coax the tenderest expressive pianissimo shiver from the violins and violas into the almost inaudible”, enthuses the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
The Seasons, a late work of Haydn's and the last oratorio he wrote, is a work that well expresses Haydn's musical wit. Imitatively and selfmockingly “Papa Haydn” presents spring, summer, autumn and winter in four sections. A ploughman whistles the well known theme from Haydn's “Surprise” Symphony, another passage depicts a hunting scene with positively brutal musical effects: a shot bird plummets from heaven with a percussion-enhanced fortissimo chord. The musical manifesto addressed to nature and the countryfolk, represented by the three soloists, breaks ground with its hitherto unexplored subjectmatter as it heralds the dawning Romantic era in music, thus occupying a special place in Haydn's oeuvre.
Nikolaus Harnoncourt brings out the simplicity of the work, “creating one sonic miracle after another” (Drehpunktkultur). The autumn hunting scenes are suitably jolly, the summer thunder ominously threatening. He is ably supported by Dorothea Röschmann as Hanne, admirable with her “soprano free of sharpness” (Salzburger Volkszeitung) and “superbe déclamation lyrique” (Diapason), Michael Schade as an expressive Lukas who puts “so much mellowness, so much warmth, so much colour” (Drehpuktkultur) into the realization of his part and finally Florian Boesch as Simon, who “... uses his songful baritone voice, his legato finesse, his mere breaths of piano to fling out a great narrative arch” (Salzburger Volkszeitung). Enhanced by the well-rehearsed choir of the Vienna State Opera, the performance proves a “stroke of luck, when the grandezza of this music is brought home to one like this, without airs and graces!”, concludes the Salzburger Nachrichten.