> DELIUS Piano Music DTR2001 [RB]: Classical Reviews- April 2002 MusicWeb-International

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Some items
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in the first division

extraordinary by any standards

An excellent disc

a new benchmark

summation of a lifetime’s experience.

Piano Concertos 1 and 2
Surprise Best Seller and now

A Garland for John McCabe


DIETHELM Symphonies

The best Rite of Spring in Years

BACH Magnificat

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Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934)
Piano Music

Dance for Harpsichord (arr for piano)
Three Preludes
Five Piano Pieces
Zum Carnival

Pensées Mélodieuses (No. 2)
Badinage (Danse Lente)
Presto Leggiero

Two Piano Pieces
Margot la Rouge - Prelude; Duet - arr Ravel
On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring
In a Summer Garden

Florida Suite - selections - Plantation Dance (At Sunset); Nocturne
Charles Abramovic (piano)
Davyd Booth (violin) (Five Piano Pieces No. 4 only)
rec Jan 2000, Longwood Gardesns Music Room, Kennett Square, PA, USA
DIRECT-TO-TAPE DTR2001 [62.10]


Experience Classicsonline

Delius for the piano? It was not his chosen medium of expression. The Piano Concerto is the least successful of his four concertos. His avocation was the orchestra. Pianists looking for a 'fix' who are also Delians can be thankful that he wrote a handful of piano pieces and that others have made arrangements of orchestral pieces.
Charles Abramovic is a most sympathetic interpreter for these stylish and unemphatic pieces. The sing-song impressionistic hallmarks are there to be heard. Take the Mazurka from the Five Piano Pieces [tr 5] as an example. Although by no means as skilled and imaginative as Debussy there are moments when Delius does sound close to the French master. By the way, Abramovic is joined by Davyd Booth (violin) with his slightly reedy tone in Lullaby for a modern baby. The Five Pieces finish with an eager little Toccata whose brightness reminded me of the more ecstatic moments from the North Country Sketches.

Zum Carnival, a memento of his Florida plantation days of the 1890s, reeks more of the Viennese dance hall than the orange grove. Pensées Mélodieuses is florid but raises itself only a little above the salon's pleasant ramparts. Much the same can be said of Valse (1890), Reverie and Badinage although the latter two have some spicy harmonic twists - especially Reverie. The Presto Leggiero owes something to the lighter Tchaikovsky of The Seasons.
We are into mature Delius, as arranged by no less than Ravel, in the two extracts from the verismo shocker Margot la Rouge - the fifth of his operas (the first four had vocal scores arranged by Florent Schmitt). This is well worth hearing and as music stands tall in the current company: reticent and suffused with sadness.
It is momentarily disorientating to encounter well loved pieces such as the gentle Cuckoo in piano apparel. Gerard Bunk (does anyone know who he is or was please?) made the excellently balanced arrangement. In fact it works far better than Philip Heseltine's (i.e. Peter Warlock's) transcription of In a Summer Garden which comes across as rather four-square and leaden. Warlock idolised Delius. He was not perhaps equal to the very demanding task of successfully transmuting the elusive orchestral skein into an essentially percussive instrument.
People will know the complete Florida Suite from the Beecham (EMI) version with Sir Thomas's editorial retouchings. Because it is early Delius it adapts quite well and in Plantation Dance rises to a splendid climax. The disc plays out with the suite's Grieg-like Nocturne which is more of an evening piece. For me it is evocative of a warm late evening with couples sauntering through softly lit streets and promenades. The skilled transcriptions are by Delius scholar Robert Threlfall who also furnishes the rewarding notes.
The cover uses a photograph of St John's River from Solano Grove at sunset.
Charles Abramovic (who has recorded Babbitt and Schwantner for CRI) is a subtle and sensitive artist and his Steinway has been sympathetically captured by DTR's Bob Sellman.
A de rigueur purchase for Delius aficionados. It will also be a draw for those wishing to sample little known pieces of arranging and transcription by Ravel and by Peter Warlock.
General interest may be limited but for those who opt to purchase there will be few disappointments provided your expectations of the music are not impossibly high. Everything is as you would expect from a production backed by the Delius Society of Philadelphia. The Society and DTR are well served by Mr Abramovic. The gem is Bunk's Cuckoo arrangement.

Rob Barnett


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