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Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934)
Marche Caprice (1889)
Three Small Tone Poems (1888-90): Summer Evening; Winter Night (Sleigh Ride); Spring Morning
American Rhapsody (1896)
The Walk to the Paradise Garden (ĎA Village Romeo and Julietí) (1898-1901)
Two Pieces for Small Orchestra (1911-12): On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring; Summer Night on the River
A Song Before Sunrise (1918)
Fantastic Dance (first performed 1934)
Royal Scottish National Orchestra/David Lloyd-Jones
Recorded at the Henry Wood Hall, Glasgow 21st-22nd August 2002
NAXOS 8.557143 [63:38]


I have to confess that I am in two minds about this new Delius compilation. Lloyd-Jonesí brisker tempi might suit Bax but they are not always sympathetic to the delicate, subtle sound-world of Delius.

The new album begins nicely with an attractive crisp reading of Marche Caprice heard here with its extra flute and cornet parts. Also impressive are Lloyd-Jonesís sympathetic renderings of the three small tone poems unusually presented together here - and the effect of their union is stunning. Three of four seasons are represented in the collection; what a pity that the fourth (representing Autumn) has been lost. It is to be fervently hoped that the Delius Society will pursue the hunt and that one day it will be found. Summer Evening is a sultry, wistful, pastoral portrait, nicely paced and balanced: delicacy turning to passion. This Sleigh Ride is a joyful celebration of youth and a wonderfully atmospheric evocation, snow gently whirling across a peaceful moonlit landscape. Lloyd-Jones imparts a wondrous ethereal quality here. The little gem ends with that Delian quality of regret, regret for the transience of life and love Ė paradise lost indeed. Spring Morning continues this mood with some delicious, delicate woodwind playing, then soaring lyricism as the music takes wing and the soul uplifts.

American Rhapsody, a forerunner of Appalachia, has considerable appeal and magic in its own right. Listen to the pellucid opening with its running harp figures suggesting, perhaps, the gentle swell of river waters. That poignant Appalachian Negro theme is presented again in variations, but different to those heard in Deliusís major work. Then the minstrel-show song, Dixie, and Yankee Doodle are presented in rousing perorations, Delius apparently caught up in the ebullience and pride of the young nation. There is also, however, a typically affecting Delian nostalgic epilogue after the bombast.

Lloyd-Jonesís Walk to the Paradise Garden is beautifully played, marvellously evocative but this is not only nature music, it is also tender love music rising to heartfelt passion. It should envelop the characters creating feelings of deepest sympathy for their plight, I wish I could have been more moved by this performance.

The remaining items in the programme are taken at speeds faster than those of Barbirolli and Beecham. There are many, many recordings of On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring - this is not among the best. The balance of Summer Night on the River places those fireflies and gnats too far forward, compromising its fragile poetry.

A Song before Sunrise also disappointed at first, too crushingly hurried I protested but then I began to be seduced by the eloquence and passion of this reading.

Finally Lloyd-Jonesís Fantastic Dance has all the hedonistic excitement of Paris and the sinuousness and romantic tenderness of the earlier Florida pieces.

Not an entirely successful album but at Naxosís super bargain price one can cherry pick and the sound is very good.

Ian Lace



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