Concert Spring 2011
Haydn: The Seasons
- Anna Dennis – soprano
- Ronan Busfield – tenor (replacing Jeremy Budd who was indisposed)
- Ashley Riches – bass
Winchester Music Club and Orchestra, Brian Howells – orchestra leader
Concert Review by Duncan Eves
First-class outing for a neglected masterpiece.
Joseph Haydn’s oratorio ‘The Seasons’ is not as well known as his earlier oratorio ‘The Creation’, nor is it performed as often. Winchester Music Club and Orchestra under the baton of Nicholas Wilks offered us an opportunity to reappraise the work in a fine performance on Saturday evening.
From the first awakenings of Spring through to the bleak landscapes of Winter, the Music Club chorus gave a convincing account of the text, capturing the changing moods of the seasons with singing that conveyed both power and subtlety. The fugue at the end of Spring pulsed with energy and the hunting scene in Autumn was similarly vivid. Here and there in some of the loud moments the infamous cathedral acoustic got the better of the performers, muddying the textures, but this was, by any standards, a first-class outing for a neglected masterpiece.
The trio of soloists have a huge amount of work to do and we were blessed with three very fine singers. The tenor, Rónan Busfield (standing in at short notice for an indisposed Jeremy Budd), had excellent diction and a bright, clear tonal palette that caught the differing moods of his arias very well. He blended beautifully with soprano Anna Dennis in their ensemble passages. She was on top form, producing some rapturous sounds as she sang about the joys of Summer and, in Autumn, the pleasures and passions of human love. Anna’s top notes have a glorious ring to them but she also produces some lovely soft singing when required. The bass Ashley Riches gave us drama in the Autumn hunting scene and conveyed the icy mood of Winter, again with excellent diction.
Winchester Music Club are fortunate to have their own ‘in house’ orchestra and several of the player deservedly gained an ovation at the end of the performance. The cheerful shepherd at the opening of Summer was accompanied by a solo horn, and the horn section excelled themselves in the Autumn hunting scene with vivid and sonorous playing. There were several passages of lyrical wind playing worthy of mention and many other passages where the orchestra provided musical depictions of the text, showing Haydn’s skill at orchestration. It was also a pleasure to hear a fortepiano continuo rather than the usual harpsichord.
Presiding over all this, Nicholas Wilks remained firm and clear in his direction, enthusing his forces to give of their best. It is such a shame that at least one third of the cathedral nave remained empty when the performers have devoted so much time and effort producing such an enjoyable event..