The Borusan Philharmonic is one of the most popular of orchestras in Turkey. They take the stage every month or so at the Lütfi Kırdar Congress Center, always on a Thursday, and always with a program that becomes one of the highlights of the season. Last Thursday, they played a program that will surely linger in our musical memories for quite some time: Haydn’s masterpiece The Seasons. And accompanying the Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra (BIPO) on stage was the Salzburg Bach Choir, coming straight from the heart of one of the greatest music capitals in the world. I had the chance to catch the Salzburg Bach Choir once before, and again as the guest star of the BIPO, when they took the stage to perform Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis as part of BIPO’s Beethoven Festival. Ever since BIPO announced its 2014-2015 program early last fall, I have been eagerly anticipating the chance to experience the Choir again.
So it was with much excitement that I waltzed into the Lütfi Kırdar Congress Hall and braced myself for Haydn’s The Seasons. Don’t be fooled by the title’s kinship to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Vivaldi’s masterpiece is a 40-minute work for strings only, and is light on the soul. The Seasons of Haydn is a masterpiece of 2.5 hours, requiring a philharmonic orchestra (i.e., not just strings but also woodwinds, brass and percussion), a chorus of impressive size singing with note booklets at hand to help decode the complicated music that accompanies the libretto in archaic German, AND three soloists (one soprano, one tenor and one baritone). Miah Persson, Ian Bostridge, and Duncan Rock were the soloists; each have an impressive voice, as attested to by Grammy Awards, Gramophone Awards and countless performances with the most renowned of orchestras, on the world’s most renowned stages. As per usual, Sacha Goetzel was the conductor of the orchestra, and the Choir sang under the baton of Alois Glassner, who is known not just for his work with the Choir, but also his a cappella projects and his role in Salzburg Festivals.
The Seasons is, not surprisingly, divided into four movements according to the seasons; there is Der Frühling, Der Sommer, Der Herbst, and Der Winter. In total, it is composed of forty-four songs, with each one ranging from less than a minute to several minutes in length. I would have liked it if the titles of each of these forty-four songs had been translated into Turkish or English. However, this was not that case, and we were left to figure out our progress in the piece by trying to decipher old German words from the singing and match them with the titles. Among the titles I could pick out was “Knurre schnurre knurre.” My subsequent requests from a German friend of mine for some translation showed that this meant “Growling, purring, growling.”
“Der Frühling,” or “Spring,” had titles celebrating the end of the harsh winter, the coming of sweet spring, and words announcing the completion of a farmer’s labor. “Summer” sang of dark clouds, the burning midday sun and thunderstorms, and the orchestra brought the individual parts together in a most impressive way. “Autumn” had the Choir of Peasants and Hunters asking us to “listen to the loud sounds” and rejoicing “when the wine has arrived.” “Winter” was the most generous in its solo parts and we were treated to solos, duets, trios, in addition to the ever-present orchestral composition and the impressive choral works. “Then the great morning arrives” was the final piece, and the announcement of the arrival of the morning also announced the end of the evening. We applauded, bid them goodbye, and left crossing our fingers for an encore come next season.
Featured Image Source: Borusan Culture and Arts