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Frederick DELIUS  (1862-1934)
Hiawatha - tone poem (1888) [17:21]
Suite for violin and orchestra (1888) [17:34]
Légende for violin and orchestra (1895) [7:41]
Double Concerto for violin, viola and orchestra (1915) arr. Lionel Tertis [7:41]
Caprice and Elegy for viola and orchestra (1930) arr. Lionel Tertis [7:41]
Philippe Graffin (violin); Sarah-Jane Bradley (viola)
BBC Concert Orchestra/David Lloyd-Jones
rec. Colosseum, Town Hall, Watford, 6-8 Jan 2009. DDD
DUTTON EPOCH CDLX 7226  [71:57] 

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Frederick DELIUS  (1862-1934)
Lebenstanz (1901 rev. 1912) [13:17]
Irmelin suite (1890-92) [15:20]
A Poem of Life and Love (1918) [17:04]
A Village Romeo and Juliet suite (1890-92) [21:59]
Royal Scottish National Orchestra/David Lloyd-Jones
rec. RSNO Centre, Henry Wood Hall, Glasgow, 13-14 Sept 2010. DDD
DUTTON EPOCH CDLX 7264  [68:06]
Experience Classicsonline



It seems sensible to survey these two discs together. Same composer - all orchestral music. Some 140 minutes of music much of it new except to fanatical enthusiasts who may have heard alternative private recordings. In the case of the violin suite they will have known of the Unicorn DKPCD9040 of Ralph Holmes playing the violin and orchestra works.
 
Life's Dance is a Straussianly exuberant extravaganza with the closest parallels being the more tumultuous episodes in the North Country Sketches. There are Delius hallmarks (try the Seadrift moment at 4:28) but this is often more in the manner of early Bax. Speaking of whom ... Bax wrote several tone poems with that sort of title at about the same time as this Delius piece. Can we hear them? This Delius work is rapturously ardent - it might almost be by Korngold.
 
The Irmelin suite is as edited and arranged by Beecham. It runs to five movements: a rather lovely breathily-pulsed Allegretto and Moderato, a stern Maestoso and a magically poised Lento introduced by harp in the manner of the Hassan music but spliced with Grieg. Finally there’s a honeyed and eloquent Moderato speaking of contented lovers.
 
The most mature work here is the Poem of Life and Love from the last year of the Great War. It quickly rises to a sumptuous climax before returning to a mix of voluptuous musing and forward-moving delight. This and Life's Dance present the face of a Delius not drowsing and becalmed in a summer garden.
 
Trust David Matthews to have arranged a suite from A Village Romeo and Juliet thus making accessible a more generous swathe of music than is afforded by the classic Walk to the Paradise Garden. This sequence of four movements works well dramaturgically speaking. It’s a version of the original suite which was also contributed to by Carl Davis here further refined by the present conductor who has elided the famous Walk and substituted the final impassioned pages of the opera including a skittishly passionate violin solo. When will we get a reissue of Vienna Mackerras recording of the complete opera on CD and DVD. It’s much needed.
 
The liner notes inform and exhort in peerelss fashion and are by Paul Guinery and Martin Lee-Browne.
 
The second disc includes four pieces for soloist(s) and orchestra alongside the 1888 tone poem Hiawatha. Robert Threlfall who prepared this performing edition has wrought a wonderfully transparent skein of sound for David Lloyd-Jones and his BBC orchestra to illuminate. The music describes a steadily ascending spiral flight in Delius's most diaphanous and least congested manner. It's a lovely Tchaikovskian work. There's nothing you might recognise as specifically native American about the piece. Rather it has much in common with the style of the Florida Suite and the Sleigh Ride. This is a most attractive piece in Delius's earliest and lambently romantic style. It's a small step from the light-suffused final pages of Hiawatha into the gracious old style caramel and Kreisler romance of the four movement Suite. Early it may be - same year as Hiawatha when composer was just 26 - but one can catch echoes and pre-echoes of the Violin Concerto alongside those of the Taneyev suite, the Tchaikovsky, the Lalo Symphonie Espagnole and the Glazunov - all cognate works. The Légende, although from seven years later, might easily be a spare movement from the Suite with its Kreisler chops. Graffin is well up to the mark - lushly calorific and sweet of tone. The Double Concerto in the violin-viola edition by Tertis is a step-change by comparison. Every bar is freighted with the honey of summery nostalgia. Bradley and Graffin surrender to its rapturous communing and mutual confiding. Lastly comes the very late Caprice and Elegy which we know from the famous recording by Beatrice Harrison - such a pity there are no recordings of Harrison in the Delius Concerto or the Double. This sultry bipartite wonder of a piece is again as arranged by Lionel Tertis. The harp is lovingly lime-lighted in the slow pulse of the Caprice while the Elegy moves just as slowly and thoughtfully. The melodiously nasal tone of the viola registers most poignantly. This is a consummately communicated performance.
 
This all reminds me that the impending November contingent of Dutton releases will include a work in collegiate sultry spirit to the Double Concerto - Arthur Benjamin's Romantic Fantasy for violin, viola and orchestra which although dedicated to Bax could just as easily have been written in loving memory of Delius. The Benjamin is a superb work which I discovered through the Heifetz recording but the genius of which only came fully home to me with a broadcast tape of the De Pasquale brothers playing along side the Philadelphia conducted by Ormandy - would that the latter would be issued on disc!
 
There we are then: almost 140 minutes of 'new' Delius. OK so some of it is as arranged by Tertis but it is still mightily impressive in the hands of the soloists and Lloyd-Jones. The latter is a most eloquent and insightful interpreter of Delius's elusively romantic music.
 
Rob Barnett
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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