Uniting Church Blackheath: Sunday 1 July at 3 pm
Blue Mountains Theatre Springwood: Friday 6 July at 7 pm
Director: Rowen Fox
Soloists: Julie Paik, Joshua Oxley and Lewis Barber
Pianists: Janette Norcott and Margo Adelson
Haydn’s two last – and greatest – choral works owe their genesis in part to a performance of Handel’s Messiah which he saw on a visit to Great Britain in 1791. That country was experiencing Handel fever in the wake of centenary celebrations of the composer’s birth. Haydn was so struck by the tradition of massed choral performance that had formed around Messiah, he immediately desired to create a similar work that would bring him lasting fame. The result, The Creation, was a smash-hit at home and abroad, which was followed by The Seasons in 1801. The majesty of the choral writing in these works owes a clear debt to the example of Handel.
It was then very fitting that, after Phoenix Choir’s successful performance of Messiah in the Springwood Hub, we moved on to a logical successor in The Seasons. This work stretched our choir in very new and challenging ways as we strived to capture Haydn’s sophisticated and nuanced Classicism. Yet I was equally concerned not to be intimidated by the stuffy reputation with which Haydn has been unfairly saddled. Our soloists and choir were exhorted to find the drama and, indeed, the humour in Haydn’s music: it is all there. We were also determined to include our audience in all the fun we have been having.
The oratorios of Handel and Haydn were separated by fifty years of development in the symphonic orchestra. In these works, as a result, Haydn raised the orchestra to a level on par with the soloists and choir in characterising the story. Orchestral depictions of nature and animal sounds (even though he did have personal reservations about their inclusion) show Haydn’s mastery of his craft. I was truly delighted to find the arrangement for four-handed piano by Alexander von Zemlinsky which we used in our performances. The addition of the extra player makes so much of the virtuosity and colour of Haydn’s orchestra possible to reproduce; no frog croak, fish splash or spinning-wheel will go unheard or unappreciated today by the alert listener. We are pleased that our audiences enjoyed this unique arrangement performed by our wonderful artists, in conjunction with our heavenly choir and soloists. It was a treat for us all!
A copy of our flyer for the concert, click : HaydnFlyer