Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809) Die Jahreszeiten (1801)
Werner Hollweg (tenor)
Walter Berry (bass)
Choir of the German Opera Berlin
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Herbert von Karajan
rec. Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin, November 1972 EMI CLASSICS GEMINI
3714822 [79:16 + 74:00]
Gemini resissue series now gets around to von Karajan’s Seasons,
a set I last encountered on CMS7 69224-2. The remastering
there was successful and there’s been no subsequent need,
from the sound of it, to do further restorative work on the
high point of the performance rests in the playing of the
Berlin orchestra. The strings play with tremendous control,
and balance between them and the winds are acutely judged.
Wind and brass contributions are ideally weighted for a performance
of this kind and all the principals concerned take articulate
and enviably eloquent solos. They also play with tremendous
power when needed – the Sunrise scene is resplendent – and
also with tactful delicacy. Karajan’s acute ear for balance
here pays dividends. What he seemingly had no control over
was the chorus. The Berlin Opera chorus is one shaggy monolith
with woolly sopranos and a weak attack. The men are better
but overall the blend is unconvincing and the execution very
disappointing. And in a work of this kind I’m afraid you
need an incisive, rhythmically on-its-toes choir.
the orchestra is superb - and the choir sometimes not - this
still leaves the three soloists to consider. Janowitz also
recorded the role with Böhm. There’s not a great deal between
her two assumptions but my preference is the Böhm. The voice
is slightly fresher and Böhm seems to offer her slightly
more sympathetic support. Nevertheless you won’t be disappointed
by her with Karajan. Walter Berry makes a decent impression
but he’s not always overburdened with advanced qualities
of vocal characterisation. Hollweg has a nice, tight, bright
tenor, though again his is not a truly distinctively sung
performance; aspects of it in fact drift toward the generic – or
maybe Karajan had imposed his will.
singing in Sei nun gnadig is certainly nimble and
ardent but in the trios he tends to be eclipsed by Janowitz.
Try O wie lieblich from Spring where her mobility
and control tend to eclipse those of her male partners. Meanwhile
Berry tends to the lugubrious in Summer’s Der munt’re
Hirt – not a huge amount of liveliness hereabouts. In
all respects they cede to Janowitz who manages to elicit
a great deal of pathos from the cavatina in Winter;
to be blunt she sets expressive standards that neither Berry
nor Hollweg can match.
harpsichord-accompanied recitatives move well and with requisite
direction. Overall this is a good, standard big band performance
vintage 1972. But in the final analysis it tends to over-scrupulousness
in terms of orchestral lines and has uneven soloists and
a disappointing chorus.
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