"While Spring and Summer Sang"
Transcriptions of Delius, and Piano Music by
Alan Rowlands (Piano)
Obtainable direct from S/L Anthony Lindsey, Hon Secretary, The
1 The Pound, Aldwich Village, West Sussex P021 3SR (Ta: 01243824964) £9.
Cheques payable to Delius Society No 2 account.
In days gone by the only way musiclovers could readily experience orchestral
music was by piano reduction. Most drawing-room piano stools sported at least
4-hand arrangements of the Beethoven and Mozart Symphonies -
and later in the 1930's and '40's the enterprising house of Banks
in York produced the rather less academic 'simplifications' of the popular
classics. I know I grew up with their 6d editions for piano of The Unfinished,
the Rakoczy March, Poet and Peasant and William Tell and delighted in these
well known melodies on the parlour piano. The years however brought more
sophistication. The first bars of Delius that I heard I was delighted to
trace on the piano in the 1914 arrangement of 'On hearing the First Cuckoo'
by Gerard Bunk. But I was desperate to get to grips with other works of his
(heard on '78's) to see how these marvellous sounds were made and to revel,
in adolescence, in the music that so transported the agonies of youth.
Eventually, and then only in the boxes that lurk in the dark corners of
second-hand bookshops I found the duet arrangements of 'Song Before Sunrise'
(Fenby 1922), 'Eventyr' (Dale 1918) and others such as 'The Forgotten Rite'
and 'Mai Dun' of John Ireland - these then out of print,
and probably still so. And only recently (1982) did Thames re-issue the solo
piano arrangements of 1921 under the auspices of the Delius Society. Finding
a duet partner in a little Scottish fishing village who had some keyboard
ability was not easy. To find someone who had any real sympathy for the
gloriously warm sumnmer harmonies of Delius was just impossible. My music
teacher's admiration for Beethoven was just short of idolatry and my liking
for the rich sounds of 'Eventyr' and 'The Forgotten Rite savoured to her
of a ritual wholly unorthodox -even dangerous.
This present CD, beautifully produced with an evocative title (from Rossetti)
and sleeve .design is an equally personal testament on the part of the pianist
Alan Rowlands who confesses, in the sensitively written sleeve notes, that
he too agonised over his desire: - as he puts it "I could
not rest until I had played this music for myself. The
result is these three transcriptions of Delius - 'on
hearing the first cuckoo in Spring', 'In a Summer Garden' and 'Brigg Fair'
in his own carefully scored arrangements, from the early '50's -
which he plays with warmth. Although I know him to be a quiet and
unexcitable personality his great enjoyment in playing these comes over most
Delius, who wrote little for piano, is not an easy composer to render into
keyboard terms - the percussive nature of the piano is
at odds with the rich current of flowing orchestral sound that recalls the
river at the foot of Delius' garden at Grez. The devices of tremolando, arpeggio
and careful pedalling have to suffice - and on this disc,
so committed is the playing that we are scarcely conscious of the nuts and
bolts (if one can use such a term of Delius) In the end all these and past
renderings of Delius for piano are 'arrangements' - the
accent on education rather than on performance - and
are not true transcriptions. They admit of no tinkering a Ia Godowsky, or
even Busoni. And as such they reveal to us, the listeners, with clarity the
processes involved in the creation of the magic that is the ultimate orchestral
sound, and they well serve this purpose which I indicated at the beginning.
As something rather more than a 'pis aller' we are also given a brief selection
of piano pieces by John Ireland, which share the Maytime mood of the Delius
and also further underline the personal choice of the pianist, who is one
of Ireland's most sensitive and authoritative interpreters. These short pieces,
carefully chosen, are as evocative of that summer mood which pervades the
disc. Unlike the yea-saying Delius, however, there are hints of a darker
melancholy - in 'Spring will not wait' (which piece is
the culmination of a short song cycle 'We'll to the Woods No More' in which
the pain of Housman's words is summed up, the voice silent, in some of Ireland's
most introspective writing) and in the song Spring Sorrow. This epilogic
piece underlines what is the dominant mood of the music -
the transient nature of all beauty, only made bearable by the promise
of reburgeoning Spring.
Colin Scott Sutherland