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Paul McCreesh has gone for a large-scale performance of the kind he conjectures might have been heard in Vienna when The Seasons was first heard there in 1801, employing combined choral and orchestral forces of nearly 200 in the big choruses. Curiously, given this criterion, he has chosen to give the work in his own English translation.

Obviously the use of such massive forces carries a sense of imposing majestic grandeur, but to my ears it is a stultifying grandeur belonging to a later era, often sitting ill at ease alongside the charming freshness of so much of the score.

This impression of a dual approach is enhanced by McCreesh’s adoption of some excessively slow tempos, ‘Heav’n be gracious’ (No. 6) being a prime example.

The best of the soloists is the charming Hanne of Carolyn Sampson, whose duet with Jeremy Ovenden’s Simon in Autumn is done with real affection. The Lukas of Andrew Foster-Williams is less satisfying, being marred by a wide vibrato. Some of the most satisfying moments come from the fine orchestral playing, in particular featuring some exquisitely lovely wind playing, while the choral singing is fine.

As a long-standing admirer of McCreesh’s work, I’m genuinely sorry not to greet this Seasons with greater enthusiasm. Others I’m sure will, but for me it is no real competition for René Jacobs’ outstanding version on harmonia mundi.

Brian Robins Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Early Music Today, 2017 - ©Rhinegold Publishing