I love Haydn's music, and came to Jahreszeiten through the Beecham recording (taped naughtily onto reel-to-reel from a BBC broadcast in about 1975) and the John Eliot Gardiner CDs. I bought both this recording, and the Karajan 1973 recording, because of the stellar cast of soloists: my top favourite soprano Janowitz (in both), but also Berry (HvK) and Talvela (Böhm). Of course, both performance-style and recording/reproduction are dated, to 2nd decade of the 21st Century ears, but do we not still watch black-and-white films, quickly adjust, and enjoy them, even in these Super-quadruple-high-density-high-definition days? All three are very different; and all three are infinitely enjoyable to listen to. My preference? The one I've chosen to listen to.
Bohm was most closely associated with Mozart Wagner and Berg in his later years. I am not aware of many Haydn recordings. Nor am I aware of any other recordings with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. However all the stops were pulled to get the best soloists of the time for the solo parts, Janowitz Schreir and Talvela, so this was clearly planned as a high profile issue. I wonder if Bohm stood in for someone else? Notwithstanding this was always a prime recommendation and it is sad we do not have much more Haydn from Bohm. It is of course big band Haydn but far more punchy than we were used to at the time. Beecham was a famed Haydn conductor but I now find his Seasons too lethargic. Jacobs on HM goes to the other extreme and is fine if you listen to a season at a time but such energy is trying over two hours. I find Gardiner's soloists less convincing than Bohm's so my current preferred listening in this work is Bohm whose recording I have lived with on LP since it first came out and the new Harnoncourt recording with the only roster of soloists to match Bohm. I reckon if you can live with a recording for forty years and still not tire of it then it must be OK. Anyway I am a fan of Gundula Janowitz as was Karajan so this has to be in my CD collection.
If Karl Böhm only had made one recording I hope that it would have been this one. It's perfect in every detail. The Wiener Symphoniker are playing with vitality, energy and clarity. The soloists are not only superb one by one, they also match each other brilliantly. Whe the solo voices blend together an extra dimension is created. I must mention Janowitz, she has done many good recordings. But this is by far her best. And to hear Talvela deep sounding bass moving around with perfect agility is pure heaven. This is one of the best recordings made - EVER!
Whenever Uncle Karl waddles out to conduct the Vienna Philharmonic, one can visualise the slippers and night-gown - and who knows: perhaps there is a hot-water bottle at hand to avert the cold. A middle of the road reading normally ensues. He can be a different beast with the Berlin Philharmonic. Here in this celebrated recording of Die Jahreszeiten, recorded across 1967, he is accompanied by the Vienna Symphonic Orchestra. Where does it sit in the scheme of things?
To my ears, this well-recorded survey is alert, pert and that's about it. Uncle Karl moves things along sprucely. And yet it's seriously lacking in chutzpah. One never senses the composer's intention to allegorise the Seasons and thereby make a cosmological statement. Key moments such as the oboe as prophet in the introduction to Summer; the Cavatina in Autumn; the End of Days introduction to Winter and the evocation of the Last Judgement in the closing bars are all a touch prosaic. On the evidence here, the Vienna Symphonic Orchestra stokes the `Neville Marriner' facet of Bohm's art.
For what my views are worth - tuppence and dust - I much prefer the Karajan from November 1972 (Haydn: Die Jahreszeiten (The Seasons)). This is Haydn as Ecclesiastes: there is a time for everything under the sun. Karajan's mastery of the infintesimal delay underwrites the venture. While a remaster would not hurt it, it's one of the last recordings that Herbie made in the Jesus Christus Church so it sounds pretty damn good. True, Janowitz is five years younger in the Bohm version but Herbie elicits a more wondrous response from the soprano who luxuriates in the slower tempi. And the Berlin Philharmonic evokes the Second Coming and the Last Judgement as only it can do in the closing bars.