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  Harmonia Mundi -
  HMC 801829/30 (2 discs)
  Haydn: The Seasons - Jacobs
  Haydn: The Seasons

Marlis Petersen
Werner Güra
Dietrich Henschel
RIAS Kammerchor
Freiburger Barockorchester
René Jacobs (conductor)
Track listing:
  Classical - Opera
Recording type:
Recording info:

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Reviews: 2

Review by Daland November 5, 2004 (11 of 12 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
An excellent and spirited recording of Haydn's masterpiece, albeit on a rather small scale. The RIAS Kammerchor is one of the finest choirs in the world, but it has only about 40 members, not quite enough for the majestic choruses, which the composer marked "maestoso". The orchestra does its best to add weight, but the overall effect is much more restrained than, say, in Karl Böhm's recording with the Vienna State Opera Chorus. The soloists give a creditable performance, but they are rather small-voiced. Especially the bass, Dietrich Hentschel, is relatively lightweight (more of a baritone). By comparison, just listen to the thundering voice of Martti Talvela in Böhm's version.
Sonically, this recording is very enjoyable. Jacobs uses period instruments, but does not exaggerate their effect. He shapes the phrases very sensibly, but sometimes his tempi are off the mark, e.g. in "Schon eilet froh der Ackersmann", where the words "with measured step" are hard to reconcile with the fast tempo.
On the whole, a welcome addition to the list of SACD recordings. Hopefully, the "Creation" will follow soon.

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Review by beardawgs February 21, 2005 (8 of 10 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
After few early disappointments from Harmonia Mundi and their deliberate use of Multichannel logo for stereo recordings put through some sort of sound processing, Iím gaining more and more confidence in the labelís MC SACDs. This recording is made in co production with the Innsbruck Festival, where Jacobs is artistic director, to my ears it is far superior to those made with WDR (Mozartís Marriage of Figaro) and it benefits from some nicely judged choral and orchestral surround effects.

Vitality and excitement of this period orchestra performance is fantastic. Jacobs treats the score theatrically, singers providing not just voices, but colouring and changing their characters with the development of the piece. I find the relatively small choral forces perfectly in tune with the conductorís approach, very flexible and agile, highlight for me being the autumnís hunt scene, sharp and almost manic, with the horns and voices coming from all over the place. This scene is also a fine example for clever use of the back channels, and if sometimes the recording lacks the sense of natural perspective and the space of the recording venue, it is hugely compensated by the crystal clear and voluminous sound. Solo singers have an almost palpable physical presence, their contributions generally on the light side, but perfectly complementing dynamism, theatricality and excitement of the choir and the orchestra.

The Seasons presents the conductor with some tricky musical sound-paintings of flowers, fish, meadows and plethora of other natural elements. Jacobs opts for more humorous approach, never letting the music to end up sounding mundane or purely descriptive. The performance is generally on the fast side, and while he generally misses all the grandeur and sublime spirituality of Boehmís version, this recording is genuinely humane and especially in two last sections teams with pastoral vigour and peasant verve, this is everymanís down-to-earth celebration of the nature and its powers. Iím not sure the same would work equally well with the Creation, but for the Seasons, Jacobs and his band sound like truly excited and vital bunch of peasants singing and glorifying all the small and simple things in life.

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Works: 1  

Joseph Haydn - Das Jahreszeiten, Hob. XXI:3 (The Seasons)