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Frederick Delius (1862-1934) – The Walk to the Paradise Garden, from “A Village Romeo and Juliet”
Delius’s Dad actively supported music – he helped to organise the Hallé Bradford Subscription Concerts, where I (much later!) cut my musical milk teeth. However, what he did not support was a musical career for his talented son. Although “Fred” tried, he couldn’t hack it in the woollen business. Eventually, he persuaded his father to let him manage an orange plantation in Florida. “Manage” turned out to be a euphemism for “look after the music studies and let the oranges look after themselves”. From there he wormed his way towards his goal, becoming one of the most quintessentially English composers ever to be born of German parents.
For years I had trouble marrying that evocative title with the mood of this music. Eventually, I had a bright – if, with hindsight, rather obvious – idea. I checked the dramatic context, and suddenly it all dropped into place. So, we need to get one thing absolutely clear: the “Paradise Garden”, far from being some soft-focus horticultural heaven, is in fact a pub - and a rather dilapidated one at that. In the opera, this enchanting intermezzo covers the scene change to the said hostelry, at which the fugitive lovers will finally decide to do away with themselves – making this “walk” anything but a carefree stroll amid idyllic nature.
The dominant theme, zipping aloft then faltering, reflects the lovers’ quandary: shall we try to run away, or put ourselves beyond capture? Alternating languor and ardour, Delius drenches his score in perfumed harmonies and sultry textures, evoking a stifling humidity such as was never endured, not even by Debussy’s Faun.
© Paul Serotsky 2006, 2007


© Paul Serotsky
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