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Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934)
Marche Caprice; Three Small Tone Poems: I. Summer Evening; II. Winter Night (Sleigh Ride); III. Spring Morning; American Rhapsody ;The Walk to the Paradise Garden (from ‘A Village Romeo and Juliet’); Two Pieces for Small Orchestra: I. On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring; II. Summer Night on the River; A Song before Sunrise; Fantastic Dance
Royal Scottish National Orchestra/David Lloyd-Jones
Recorded at the Henry Wood Hall, Glasgow, 21st-22nd August 2002
NAXOS 8.557143 [63:38]

This is a very attractive compilation, combining some of Delius’s most celebrated miniatures with some genuine rarities. The programme is cunningly designed, starting and finishing with pieces of a lively, capricious nature, enclosing some of the more poetically-titled works. The Marche Caprice of track 1 is a little gem, especially when played with the alert phrasing and articulation that Lloyd-Jones and the RSNO demonstrate here.

Then follow the ‘Three Small Tone Poems’; I particularly love Winter Night, not only for its cheery main section complete with jingles, but also for its unforgettably beautiful string melody in the central episode.

American Rhapsody (track 5) is a novelty; composed in 1896 but never performed in Delius’s lifetime. It is a sort of sketch for Appalachia, the large-scale choral and orchestral work that followed in 1902. It is fascinating to hear material that either recurs verbatim in the later work, or is reworked, as in the case of the horn melody which begins the work. It also begins Appalachia, but just one of its notes has been changed in the later piece, giving it a more satisfying profile. The Rhapsody also contains noisily exuberant march music, featuring the tune Yankee Doodle, which, perhaps inevitably, made me think of Charles Ives.

Two of Delius’s most famous works follow: The Walk to the Paradise Garden and On Hearing the first Cuckoo in Spring, and each is given a lovingly stylish reading. The recorded sound is excellent, with clear balance and just sufficient ambience. Lloyd-Jones secures some really fine playing from the Scottish orchestra, whose woodwind soloists are on particularly fine form.

The disc concludes with the Fantastic Dance composed with the aid of Eric Fenby; a short work that turned out to be the composer’s final composition. It has a strongly French flavour – the very opening seems to have stolen in from Ravel’s La Valse - but quickly develops into something more characteristic of Delius. On the other hand, slight though the work is, it is interesting and perhaps ironic that this last utterance from a composer so strongly associated with a ‘dying fall’ should conclude with such brilliance and glitter. The final chord is an ambiguous one, the same major/minor added 6th with which Mahler finished Das Lied von der Erde; make of that what you will!

This is a fine CD; beautifully played and recorded. It has plenty for the Delius connoisseur, yet would make a great introduction for somebody wishing to become acquainted with the composer’s work.

Gwyn Parry-Jones

see also review by Ian Lace




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