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Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934)
Seven Songs from the Norwegian (1889-90) [19:08]: (Twilight Fancies [3:11]; Young Venevil [1:32]; Hidden Love [3:01]; The Minstrel [2:09]; The Bird's Story [3:04]; Cradle Song [2:10]; The Homeward Way [3:29])
In the Garden of the Seraglio from Seven Danish Songs (1896-7) [2:20]
Irmelin Rose
from Seven Danish Songs (1896-7) [2:29]
Il pleure dans mon coeur (1895) [2:27]
Le ciel est, par-dessus le toit (1895) [2:53]
La lune blanche (1910) [1:36]
Chanson d'automne (1911) [1:24]     
Summer Eve from Five Songs from the Norwegian (1888) [2:27]        
Longing from Five Songs from the Norwegian (1888) [2:53]
Sunset from Five Songs from the Norwegian (1888) [3:18]
The nightingale has a lyre of gold (1910) [1:23]
I-Brasil (1913) [3:35]
Summer Landscape (1902) [2:29]
O schneller, mein Ross (1888) [1:40]
Aus deinen Augen fließen meine Lieder (1890-91) [3:23]
So white, so soft, so sweet is she from Four Old English Lyrics (1915) [1:37]
To Daffodils from Four Old English Lyrics (1915) [1:52]
Love's Philosophy from Three Shelley Songs (1891) [1:46]
Summer Nights from Seven Danish Songs (1896-7) [2:24]
Yvonne Kenny (soprano); Piers Lane (piano)
rec. All Saints Church, East Finchley, London, 15-17 May 2006. DDD
HYPERION CDA67594 [62:09]

Experience Classicsonline

Despite being primarily known for his orchestral works, Delius wrote a large number of songs, as well as operas and larger-scale choral works. Only a dozen of his songs set original English poetry, with a few others setting French, German and Swedish, whilst over half are settings of Norwegian and Danish poems. This may perhaps be put down partly to the influence of Delius’s friend, Grieg, who also set many of the same texts. It is interesting to note, too, that Delius dedicated two sets of his Norwegian songs to Grieg’s wife, the singer Nina.

The disc opens with the set of Seven Songs from the Norwegian. These are mostly settings of verses by Bjornstjerne Bjornson and Ibsen – contemporary poets whom Delius later met. Several songs from Seven Danish Songs ensue - all but one of the set are settings of Jens Peter Jacobsen – one of Delius’s favourite writers, and on one of whose novels Delius based his opera Fennimore and Gerda. French poetry is represented by Verlaine (here Il pleure dans mon coeur, Le ciel est, par-dessus le toit, La lune blanche and Chanson d'automne), and England by Shelley (here, Love's Philosophy), and by Delius’s settings of Herrick and Ben Jonson, composed when back in England during the war. Delius even nodded to the fashion then prevalent amongst British composers for ‘Celtic’ settings, here in the form of the lovely I-Brasil by William Sharp (under his pseudonym of Fiona Macleod), a poet admired by Bax and Boughton amongst others, and a book of whose poetry had been given to Delius by his then young devotee, the composer Peter Warlock (Philip Heseltine). 

Yvonne Kenny and Piers Lane give good performances of these beautiful songs. Kenny has a pleasantly rich, mature voice - strong without being overpowering, and very well controlled, with good enunciation and perfect pitching. She has quite a dark shading in her voice which works well in these songs - in the opening Twilight Fancies, for example, she captures the lyrical brooding melancholy well. Lane is a sensitive accompanist, and works well with the voice, supporting, enhancing, but never dominating (as in The Bird's Story, for instance).

The songs encompass a great range of emotion – from the beautifully tender and melting Cradle Song through to the high-spirited O schneller, mein Ross. Although Kenny does include some variation in her approach, my only criticism of this disc might be that she generally tends to sing in a rather heroic manner which tends to be applied to all the songs without much relent. 

In general, however, these are good performances of songs that deserve to be more often heard. A number of them are quite virtuosic, and Kenny and Lane perform them with passion and flair. Good stuff.

Em Marshall


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