For week two of the Forgotify experiment, the random music gods gifted unto me Joseph Hadyn’s The Seasons. Yes, it’s classical music, but hey! Where are you going? Classical music isn’t scary. Come back!
I want to apologize on behalf of the classical music community because we receive little to no federal funding (unless you live in Germany, in which case, LUCKY YOU!), and we depend on charitable contributions from rich people who are generally old, white, and privileged beyond belief. These same people generally don’t like young punks, innovation, or diversity. I’m sorry for that. Some of us are scrambling for funds left over to create places for innovation and diversity, places for free concerts, and places where new music gets performed. Yes, people are still composing classical music. I do it; in fact, lots of people do it. It’s just next to impossible to get anything performed by a big house unless your name is Mozart or Beethoven.
Listen to the piece here: It’s movement number 39, but this looks like a weird compilation album, and it’s listed as XI, or number 11. Listen to the dudes harmonizing because everyone loves some male harmonies, even me, the lesbian feminist killjoy.
In German, the piece is titled Die Jahreszeiten, or The Seasons in English. It’s an oratorio, which means it’s like an opera, only with lots of religion and no costumes. When funding got tight and people were spending their weekends at religious revivals instead of boozing it up at the opera, composers would write oratorios to fill up some seats. Even if you’ve never heard the term before today, you’ve probably listened to part of an oratorio at least once by way of Handel’s “Hallelujah” chorus from Messiah.
There is another famous piece called “The Four Seasons,” written by Vivaldi, and it is frequently used in commercials and as hold music. Because listening to staticky classical music on a five-minute loop definitely won’t make anyone angrier than they already are waiting on hold.
Here is Vivaldi’s piece, which is purely instrumental:
Hadyn took two years to write this oratorio. It features a libretto based on James Thomson’s poem of the same name that was written by rich old white buy Baron Gottfried van Swieten. It premiered in 1801 for the aristocracy, and later in the year for the vile underclass who wanted to hear good music. How dare they want to experience grand music? Don’t they know their place in life?
This work was written to be bilingual, but the German version is the only one that ever gets performed. The English translation is universally hated and described as”grotesque.” The translation was prepared by the same German dude, and English was not his strongest subject. The translations rarely match the original text, and frequently make no sense. I thought about going through the text line by line and finding inconsistencies, but decided none of you probably care that much.
Hilariously, Haydn is known to have strongly disliked the text that von Swieten prepared, describing it as “Frenchified trash” in a letter to a colleague in 1801.
Come on Haydn, Frenchified trash? How dare you! It’s obviously FREEDOMIFIED TRASH.
(I know that’s an old joke. I’m sorry.)