John Christopher Smith - The Seasons
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Cat No: CHR77382
Number of Discs: 2
Release Date: 10th March 2014
ArtistsEmma Kirkby (soprano)
Tim Mead (countertenor)
Hans Jorg Mammel (tenor)
Markus Simon (bass)
Musica Franconia Festival Choir
60 years before Joseph Haydn, the German composer John Christopher Smith wrote an oratorio about the seasons, also based on the epic poem 'The Seasons' by the Scottish poet James Thomson. Smith was born in 1712 in Ansbach as Johann Christoph Schmidt and emigrated with his parents to London, for his father worked as a manager and copyist for George Frederic Handel.
Young Smith received his first instruction from the master personally and later became Handel's closest working associate. He helped Handel with his composing and, when his mentor became blind, he directed performances of his oratorios. Smith himself was also a recognised composer who was "highly appreciated by many of the 'first heads' in the Kingdom", as the English music scholar Charles Burney reported.
His oratorio about the seasons is an imaginative tone painting in a style which extends beyond the baroque, already introducing elements of the Empfindsamer Stil (Sensitive Style). In particular, Smith's colourful representations of nature – ranging from birdsong and the undulations of the forest to icy winter storms – are successfully realised. They show that he was far more than just Handel's assistant.
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