Most of Delius’ sixty-plus songs were written in the early part of his career, before the works by which he is best known. Nevertheless several are famous and the totality of songs occupies an important place in his output. They are written in several languages, with only thirteen being in English. This disc – the first of two - features most of the early Norwegian songs as well as several of the English ones.
Delius’ Seven Songs from the Norwegian contains several of his best-known works in this genre, including Twilight Fancies, Young Venevil, and The Bird’s Story. The last of these is the most Delian in style and puts to rest the idea that the composer was anything but English. Most of the rest are more Grieg-like, although The Homeward Way is notable for its harmony.
The rest of the Norwegian songs on this disc date from slightly earlier in the composer’s output. The earliest are the Five Songs from the Norwegian. These are rather ordinary, although Summer Eve is charming and Longing shows the influence of the composer Halfdan Kjerulf. The composer’s earliest surviving song, Over the Mountains, was written during his years in Florida and will probably remind listeners of the better-known Florida Suite. Mountain Life, written three years later is, like The Homeward Way, notable for its harmony. The two selections from Four Posthumous Songs, although written in Norwegian, date from Delius’ first years in France.
Among the English songs we have the three early Shelley songs, which are dramatic, but otherwise similar to their Norwegian counterparts. Of later provenance are the Four Old English Lyrics, written during the composer’s residence in England during the First World War. Unlike the previously mentioned works these are products of the composer’s maturity and are the equal of the fine chamber works he was composing at this time. It Was a lover and his lass is an appropriately languorous setting of Shakespeare’s words, while Jonson’s So white, so soft, so sweet is she is even more expressive. Spring, the sweet spring (Nashe) and the well-know To Daffodils (Herrick) are near-perfect settings of their texts, as are I-Brasil and The Nightingale has a Lyre of gold.
Mark Stone is rising fast in the ranks of baritones and has
been heard in opera on both sides of the Atlantic. He has a
powerful and affecting voice and puts a lot of thought into
his conception of each song. His stated intention is to record
all the Delius songs and this is good news as no other complete
edition is currently available, although Yvonne Kenny’s disc
of about half the songs on Hyperion
provides worthy competition. As can be seen from the above Mr.
Stone is his own producer and has his own record label. He has
developed an innovative business model in which he first announces
music to be recorded and then seeks funding. See his website
for upcoming projects [see site].
The birds' story
The homeward way
It was a lover and his lass
So white, so soft, so sweet is she
Spring, the sweet spring
Over the mountains high
They are not long, the weeping and the laughter
The nightingale has a lyre of gold
In the forest
I once had a newly cut willow pipe
Indian love song
To the queen of my heart