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Frederick DELIUS
Florida Suite: Daybreak - Dance; By the River; Sunset - Near the Plantation;
At Night
North Country Sketches: Autumn; Winter Landscape; Dance; The March of Spring
On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring*
Air and Dance*

Ulster Orchestra
London Philharmonic Orchestra*
Conducted by Vernon Handley
CHANDOS CHAN 6628 [77:42]
This is a reissue the recordings were made in 1984 and 1986
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Vernon Handley proves he is a most sympathetic interpreter of Delius's music in this generously filled album. These are performances of considerable refinement.

His leisurely paced readings reveal a multitude of little felicities that make these evocations of Florida come alive. Daybreak dawns hushed and gently fluttering with gossamer filigrees of sound, and pianissimo birdsong, until the pace quickens to the Dance - Delius's well-known 'La Calinda', here occupying a fine balance between delicacy and sinew. 'By the River', the second movement, brings the day forward - probably to midday - and one can imagine Florida in siesta, everything drowsy and languid; a leisurely perspective with one of Delius's lovely tunes, almost a lullaby, meandering its way through to the accompaniment of softly droning insects.

'Sunset' and the music depicts all its radiance, colours muted; then, softly, slowly, a dance picks up, growing in passion and urgency before falling back into the stillness of late evening. Soft tremolo strings and distancing horns with higher woodwinds beautify 'At Night' the concluding movement that brings the day's cycle to its conclusion. Handley's nocturnal picture is magical; rarely has that lovely horn melody been so full of yearning and nostalgia.

North Country Sketches belongs to the less exotic Yorkshire Moors portrayed here through the seasons. 'Autumn' begins almost in stillness before a breeze, strengthening, strips and strews leaves. Muted, almost dejected birdsong, mourns the passing of the year and the whole is wrapped in a sepia glow. Moaning winds close the movement and usher in a chill 'Winter Landscape' with icy crystalline ostinatos; Delius's frosty beauty evoking a landscape bleached white and blurry under driven snow. Inside their homes people snuggle in the warmth and enjoy a Dance to cheer them until the 'March of Spring' which Delius heralds with appropriate cheeriness, colour and pomp (although with his usual cautionary note that even Spring's joy and beauty is but transient).

The album is completed with a delightful reading of Delius's popular On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring and the less well-known but charming Air and Dance dating from 1915 and dedicated to the National Institute for the Blind.


Ian Lace

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