More than 60 years before Joseph Haydn, the German-born John Christopher Smith wrote an oratorio on the seasons, also based on the verse epic "The Seasons" by the Scottish poet James Thomson. Smith was born Johann Christoph Schmidt in Ansbach in 1712 and emigrated to London with his parents, for his father worked as a steward and copyist for George Frideric Handel. Young Smith received his first music lessons from the master himself, and later Smith junior became Handel's closest collaborator. He helped him with his composition work, and when his mentor went blind, he directed the performances of his oratorios. But Smith was also a respected composer in his own right, "held in high esteem by many of the first minds in the kingdom," according to the English music scholar Charles Burney.
His oratorio on the seasons is an imaginative sound painting that stylistically transcends the Baroque and already hints at the Sensitive Style. In particular, the richly coloured depictions of nature - from the chirping of birds to the swaying of the forest to icy winter storms - are impressively accomplished by Smith and show that he was far more than Handel's assistant.