The Seasons was completed by Haydn in 1801, just three years after his triumph with The Creation. Considered by many to be a summation, culmination, and climax to a long and distinguished career, The Seasons was his last major composition and is widely regarded to be his most mature, carefully crafted, and musical. Its orchestral tone-paintings (instrumental pictures such as soaring birds, leaping lambs, storms, stag hunt, drinking scene, etc.) are abundant and unmatched in any other major work. No musical knowledge is necessary to delight in the simple folk song melodies and vivid orchestral tone-painting. The Seasons may be infrequently performed but is widely considered to be equal in quality and musically superior to the more popular Creation.
The text presented to Haydn was a German translation of an English poem written by Scotsman James Thomson, who had moved to London. The poem was very popular in the 18th Century and was translated into several languages in addition to German. Thomson was attempting a moralistic description of the influence of nature on country life. The musical libretto was prepared by Baron von Swieten, who also prepared the text forSeven Last Words and Creation. He was responsible for introducing the characters of a farmer, his daughter, and her suitor, in order to provide commentary.
Although widely acclaimed in Austria and Germany, The Seasons was never performed in Haydn?s life time in England as he had intended. The secular nature of the work requires a performance in the vernacular, and the English translation provided by Baron von Swieten has never been effective. This fact has perhaps been its biggest obstacle even to modern time. The Seasons may now become a ?popular oratorio? for English-speaking audiences as well as European, given the Alice Parker/Thomas Pyle (1973) translation presented by AVM.
This is the Assabet Valley Mastersingers’ third performance (1986, 1996) using the contemporary translation by Alice Parker and Thomas Pyle. We hope that this translation and these performances will help to bring The Seasons to its rightful place in the standard oratorio repertoire of English-speaking countries