The Violin Concerto
If I were a violinist I would relish playing Delius’s
delightful concerto. The violin enters with an exquisite phrase full
of longing, passion and tenderness. Tasmin Little’s command of this
concerto is apparent from the very first note.
The Concerto is cast in one continuous movement. The
first section is beautifully melodic. The cadenza is beautifully structured
and executed. A joyous orchestral tutti heralds the final allegretto
section that gains in intensity and excitement. The orchestra plays
a greater role here and the violin speaks eloquently straight to the
heart. A lively dance tune followed by a pastoral theme brings this
lovely concerto to a close.
The Piano Concerto
A gentle pastoral theme opens this composition and
the piano enters with Grieg-like chords, which soon give way to a nostalgic
melodic childlike gentleness. This powerful concerto is given the full
Romantic treatment by Jean-Rodolphe Kars. Originally composed as a three
movement work, it was later revised as a single movement piece. It demonstrates
the significant influence of Grieg. Kars gives an heroic performance,
highlighting light and dark passages to good effect. His rapport with
the orchestra is well defined especially during the pianissimo passages
in what may have been the slow movement, and later when the music becomes
dreamlike and there is a sense of longing. As the work draws to a conclusion
one senses a contented resolution and the Concerto ends in a full forte
Two pieces for piano and cello.
The two short delicate pieces for piano and cello,
written when Delius was blind and paralysed, seem to mirror the composer’s
despair and frustration. They are played with sensitivity by Bengt Forsberg
and Julian Lloyd Webber. In the Caprice the influence of Grieg
is again very apparent especially in the delightful rippling piano phrases.
Elegy contrasts despair with moments of joy and Lloyd Webber’s
playing seems to get to the heart of the music. These two miniatures
were amongst the last pieces Delius wrote, aided by his friend and amanuensis,
On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring
On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring was composed
in 1912 and is one of Delius’s best-known works. It is folk song and
Grieg-influenced and yet its Englishness is very strong. Was Delius
longing for his homeland? The Welsh Opera Orchestra are in fine form.
Brigg Fair is an orchestral rhapsody with a
central theme and variations. There is an opening birdsong-like sequence
that seems to recall a bygone age. There follows a short haunting passage
for the horn. A rather jolly dance tune plays before a final orchestral
tutti and the music fades as if the sun has gone down. The London Symphony
Orchestra is conducted by Anthony Collins, himself a composer, who recorded
many noteworthy albums for Decca. His series of Sibelius symphonies
(on Beulah - recently deleted) is regarded as a classic of the gramophone.
Here he gives an idiosyncratic reading of Brigg Fair that seems
to be redolent of the English countryside. The mono sound, although
a little congested at times, is no real hindrance to its enjoyment.
This Delius compilation, often strongly Scandinavian-influenced,
and with a Violin Concerto to cherish and play over and over again,
makes a fine addition to any British music collection. Unhesitatingly