The Seasons – Haydn
Conductor: Christopher Fletcher
Date: Sunday 30 November 2014 at 7 pm
Location: The Guildhall, Royal Parade, Plymouth. PL1 1HA
Soloists: Catherine Hamilton (soprano) Richard Rowntree (tenor) Andrew Mahon (bass baritone)
Tickets: £17 at the door; Child/student £5; £15 in advance
Franz Joseph Haydn
Franz Joseph Haydn was among the creators of the fundamental genres of classical music, and his influence upon later composers is immense. Haydn’s most celebrated pupil was Ludwig van Beethoven, and his musical form casts a huge shadow over the music of subsequent composers such as Schubert, Mendelssohn and Brahms.
Franz Joseph Haydn was recruited at age 8 to the sing in the choir at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, where he went on to learn to play violin and keyboard. After he left the choir, he supported himself by teaching and playing violin, while studying counterpoint and harmony.
Haydn soon became an assistant to composer Nicola Porpora in exchange for lessons, and in 1761 he was named Kapellmeister, or “court musician,” at the palace of the influential Esterházy family, a position that would financially support him for nearly 30 years. Isolated at the palace from other composers and musical trends, he was, as he put it, “forced to become original.”
The Mature Artist
While Haydn rose in the Esterházy family’s esteem, his popularity outside the palace walls also increased, and he eventually wrote as much music for publication as for the family. Several important works of this period were commissions from abroad, such as the Paris symphonies (1785-1786) and the original orchestral version of “The Seven Last Words of Christ” (1786). Haydn came to feel sequestered and lonely, however, missing friends back in Vienna, such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, so in 1791, when a new Esterházy prince let Haydn go, he quickly accepted an invitation to go to England to conduct new symphonies.
Audiences flocked to Haydn’s concerts, and during his time in England he generated some of his best-known work, including the “Rider” quartet and the Surprise, Military, Drumroll and London symphonies.
Haydn returned to Vienna in 1795 and took up his former position with the Esterházys, although only part-time. At this point, he was a public figure in Vienna, and when he wasn’t at home composing, he was making frequent public appearances. With his health failing, his creative spirit outlasted his ability to harness it, and he died at age 77.
Haydn is remembered as the first great symphonist and the composer who essentially invented the string quartet. The principal engineer of the classical style, Haydn exerted influence on the likes of Mozart, his student Ludwig van Beethoven and scores of others.
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The Seasons was Haydn’s follow-up to his successful The Creation. In four parts, each musically depicting a season, it offers plentiful opportunities for all the participants to shine. Haydn’s background living on the Austro-Hungarian border in a rustic farming community, the son of a wheelwright/wagon maker, provided the inspiration for this work. It expresses his own sunny personality and is light-hearted, describing, for example, a summer storm, hunting episodes, daybreak, the gloomy winter fog, peasant dances, and imitations of nature, like frog croaks that will bring a smile to your face.
Our conductor Christopher Fletcher is looking forward to the concert:
“It’s a wonderful piece of music and not often done. This is because choirs tend to perform instead his The Creation which is undoubtedly a masterpiece. Towards the end of his life (1799-1801) Haydn wrote The Seasons spurred on by the success of The Creation which was being performed all over Europe and had brought him great success. It was written in the early romantic style and formed a template for other composers to follow. In spite of his ailing health The Seasons also turned out to be a great work.
I don’t know why it is not performed more often. Perhaps it’s the subject matter. The powerful story of the world being created in seven days seems to have a greater draw than a work about the changing seasons, which other composers had also tackled.
But The Seasons is a masterpiece in its own right and I am delighted we are performing it again. When I first joined Plymouth Philharmonic Choir, the first concert I was to conduct had already been decided by my predecessor so the Haydn was not my own choice. It was new to both me and to the choir but we all enjoyed it immensely and I have always had it in mind to do it again one day.”
The choir will be performing Haydn’s The Seasons at 7pm on 30 November in Plymouth Guildhall
Catherine received a scholarship to study at the Royal Academy of Music from the age of ten. After gaining a BA Hons in Music and English from Southampton University, she returned to the Royal Academy on the post-graduate opera course and was awarded the Diploma of Advanced Studies, the Camden Trust Award, the Flora Nielsen Prize and LRAM with Distinction.
Catherine is an experienced and versatile performer whose international career has incorporated opera, oratorio, recitals and musical theatre.
Her operatic performances have taken her throughout Europe. Her roles have included Susanna in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, Musetta in Puccini’s La Bohème, and Micaela in Bizet’s Carmen. Closer to home she has sung Valencienne in Lehar’s The Merry Widow and Oscar in Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera for Opera Holland Park.
Catherine is in great demand as an oratorio soloist and has sung extensively for choirs and choral societies at major venues across the UK and overseas. Recent highlights include Mozart’s Coronation Mass and Exultate Jubilate in Dunkirk, Brahms’ Requiem for the Shaldon Festival with Sir David Willcocks, Handel’s Messiah in Arundel Cathedral and Vaughan Williams’ A Sea Symphony in Exeter Cathedral.
She has also enjoyed much success on the concert platform, most notably at the Chichester Gala festivities, the Festivale Saint-Eloi in France, Theatre Royal, Bath and the Dukes Hall at the Royal Academy of Music.
Catherine made her West End debut as the younger Maria Callas in the acclaimed production of Masterclass, and toured Germany as Christine in Das Phantom der Oper. She also performed in Sondheim’s The Frogs at the London Barbican.
Among her recordings is the official royal lullaby for HRH Prince William, the album ‘Chansons Tristes’ accompanied by acclaimed pianist, Jeremy Brown, a live performance on Radio Belge of Britten’s Hymn to St. Cecilia and a specially commissioned choral work written for Catherine, by composer Cyril Lloyd.
Since moving to Devon, Catherine has been actively involved in all aspects of music in the area, including her role as vocal adviser for Cornwall.
Other engagements this year included a concert tour of Rome, culminating in a performance of Fauré’s Requiem in St. Peter’s Rome and The Magic of Mozart for Devon Opera.
Richard Rowntree is a leading oratorio and consort singer who enjoys a busy schedule as a freelance performer. Richard studied voice, viola and piano at Trinity College of Music, London. On leaving college, Richard became a tenor Vicar Choral at Wells Cathedral, a post he held from 1999 – 2007 when he joined the choir of the London Oratory, with whom he sang for almost six years.
Richard regularly appears with many of the country’s leading groups including The Monteverdi Choir, The Gabrieli Consort, The Sixteen, The King’s Consort, the Tallis Scholars, Choir of the Age of Enlightenment, Britten Sinfonia Voices, The Cambridge Singers, the London Handel Festival, and The Philharmonia Voices. As a soloist, Richard has appeared with The Gabrieli Consort in London, Paris, Rome and at the BBC Proms. He has become a sought-after soloist for an increasing number of choral societies throughout the UK. He also regularly appears as a soloist with The Belmont Ensemble at St Martin in the Fields, London. His extensive oratorio repertoire includes Handel’s Messiah, Bach’s Passions (both as Evangelist and aria soloist), Christmas Oratorio and B Minor Mass, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Stainer’s Crucifixion, Monteverdi’s Vespers, Mozart Requiem and Haydn’s Creation and Seasons. In 2011, Richard performed the tenor solos in Verdi’s Requiem, alongside Sir Willard White.
In August 2008 Richard made his BBC Proms debut with the Choir of the Age of Enlightenment under the late Sir Charles Mackerras. He returned to The Proms in 2009 with The Gabrieli Consort in a performance of Haydn’s Creation, with The Monteverdi Choir in a programme of Bach’s Motets, and again in 2011 as a soloist with The Gabrieli Consort in Mendelssohn’s Elijah. As a recording artist, Richard has sung on numerous recordings for labels including Deutsche Grammophon, Hyperion, Chandos, Naxos and Regent and has also broadcast regularly, both as a soloist and as a consort member, on BBC TV, BBC Radio 3 and 4, Radio France, WDR Germany and Classic FM. Recent engagements included a return to the BBC Proms and tours with the The Gabrieli Consort, English Concert, Choir of the Age of Enlightenment and with The Australian Chamber Orchestra, with whom he appeared as a soloist at venues including Sydney Opera House.
Canadian bass-baritone Andrew Mahon has sung with many leading ensembles in the UK, Canada, and across Europe, including the London Handel Orchestra, the Leicester Bach Choir, Sinfonieorchester des Norddeutschen Rundfunks (NDR), the Schleswig-Holstein Festival Choir and Orchestra (SHMF), the Elbipolis Barockorchester Hamburg, the Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart, Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir, the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, the Theatre of Early Music, Les Voix Baroques, the Toronto Consort, the Tallis Choir, Aradia Ensemble, the Toronto Masque Theatre, Opera Atelier, and many choral societies in England.
Notable recent engagements include Bach’s B minor mass with the London Handel Orchestra under Adrian Butterfield at the Tilford Bach Festival; for the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival, the role of Il Mandarino in a concert performance of Puccini’s Turandot in Lübeck with the NDR Sinfonieorchester under Keri-Lynn Wilson, a performance and live television broadcast of Beethoven’s Chorfantasie with the SHMF Choir and Orchestra under Christoph Eschenbach, and Schumann’s Mass in C minor under Christopher Hogwood; Handel’s Israel in Egypt and Zelenka’s Missa Votiva in Toronto with Tafelmusik; Handel’s Messiah with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra; the role of Samuel in Handel’s Saul with the Bach-Collegium and Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart under Helmuth Rilling.
Andrew Mahon began singing as a chorister in Toronto, was educated at the University of Toronto, and is currently a Vicar Choral at Wells Cathedral.
CHRISTOPHER FLETCHER Conductor
In 1978, Christopher was awarded a scholarship to study music at Trinity College of Music, London, becoming a Graduate and Fellow of the College. He moved to South Devon in 1984, since when he has been actively involved with choirs, church music and teaching. After 8 years as organist and Director of Music of the Parish and Priory Church of St Mary Totnes, in 2001 he was appointed to a similar post at the Plymouth Roman Catholic Cathedral. Since 1996 he has been Director of Music and Conductor of Plymouth Philharmonic Choir. During his tenure the choir has become recognised as one of the best large amateur choirs in the country.
Performances with the choir which stand out include: Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius, Mendelssohn’s ‘Elijah’ with Sir Thomas Allen as soloist, David Fanshawe’s ‘African Sanctus’ in the presence of the composer, Karl Jenkin’s ‘The Armed Man’, with the Orchestra of the Royal Marines, which was judged by the Plymouth Herald to be the best classical concert of the year, and the choir’s recent performance of Dvorak’s ‘Stabat Mater’ which many members of the audience thought possibly the choir’s best ever!
In addition Christopher is conductor of the Chagford Singers, the Lupridge Singers and the Stanborough Chorus . He has also conducted the South Devon Choir. As well as being in demand as a choral workshop leader, Christopher helped to found the annual Rotary ‘Come and Sing’ charity concert at Buckfast Abbey in 1999, which he has conducted each year since and which regularly attracts 200 singers from all over Devon and beyond. In 2008 he was awarded a Paul Harris Fellowship by Rotary International. Christopher is also in demand as an after – dinner speaker.