The vast canvas of an oratorio that begins with the turn from Winter to Spring, and progresses through Summer, Autumn, and Winter, The Seasons, by Josef Haydn, expands this Sunday’s Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert broadcast to three hours.

On this colorful journey, there are sunrises and sunsets, a thundering storm, and the marvelous sounds of nature, in Haydn’s masterpiece scored for expanded orchestra, three soloists, and chorus.

Haydn’s two extended residencies in England in the early 1790s introduced him to the genre of the oratorio, and he was so blown away by performances of Handel’s oratorios that he wanted to write his own.

First came The Creation, with a text adapted from the Bible and Milton’s Paradise Lost, and it was enormously successful. So, Haydn teamed up again with his translator, Baron Gottfried van Swieten, a diplomat in Vienna, and the result was the work we hear on Sunday, The Seasons.

Even at the end of his long career, approaching age 70, Haydn composed a work of breathtaking beauty and enduring freshness, based on a libretto drawn from a text by the Scottish poet James Thomson. The choral writing in The Seasons is some of the finest in all of music, and the members of the Philadelphia Symphonic Choir will sing this magnificent part.

In addition are the roles of Simon, sung by British bass Matthew Rose, Lukas, sung by German tenor Werner Güra, and Hanne, sung with bell-like purity by Swiss soprano Regula Mühlemann.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts this work that has been special to him since his childhood.

The Seasons is divided into two parts, separated by an intermission, and during the break WRTI’s Susan Lewis speaks backstage with Yannick and Joe Miller, choral director of the Philadelphia Symphonic Choir, while Debra Lew Harder spends some time with soprano Regula Mühlemann.

It’s a great way to begin a new year! That’s Sunday, January 7th from 1 to 4 pm on WRTI 90.1, the WRTI mobile App, and streaming worldwide at!