See review of Volume
An excellent task for the train journey between Manchester
Piccadilly and London Euston was the collation of all the tracks
on the first and second volumes of the Complete Delius Songbook
against Mary Christian Huismann’s catalogue of Delius’ music.
‘Volume 1’ of the Songbook contained 27 songs; ‘Volume
2’ has 34 numbers. The collation produced a couple of interesting
Firstly it would appear that the project is now largely complete.
Out of the section listing the ‘Songs with Pianoforte Accompaniment’
only three numbers appear to be missing. They are ‘When other
lips shall speak,’ ‘Aus deinen Augen fliessen meine lieder’,
from the Heine settings, although this is actually by Franz
Ries, and the second of the Two Songs for Children,
‘The Streamlet’s Slumber Song.’ Included in this present volume
are the Seven Danish Songs, which were issued with
orchestral or piano accompaniment. Interestingly two pieces
from the catalogue section II (Voices and Orchestra) have been
included: - ‘Mitternachtslied Zarathustras’ (The Midnight Song
of Zarathustra) and one of the Songs of Sunset. Piano
accompaniments for these songs were provided by the composer.
I am not sure as to whether there is another CD due to be released:
I emailed the record company to ask them, but they have not
replied. Perchance they are going to issue the orchestral songs
including the Maud cycle, A Late Lark and
Cynara along with the remaining two songs noted above?
This brings me to my first criticism of this CD (and its predecessor).
The selection of songs for each volume appears to defy analysis.
The groupings given in the track-listings bear little resemblance
to the catalogue (Huismann’s or Threlfall’s), either in batting
order or in chronology. For example, Volume 1 included two songs
from the Eleven Early Songs and the present CD has
the remaining nine. The Four Posthumous Songs are split
equally between the two volumes. There is no rationale presented
for this splitting and reforming of cycles and groups.
The second issue to address is whether it is a good idea to
have all the Scandinavian songs sung in English. I am a bit
of an anorak when it comes to this sort of thing and I like
the language to be that in which it was conceived and published.
I do not suggest that I am fluent in Danish or Norwegian: I
am not. However, with a good translation, the original text
and a following wind I get a lot of pleasure out of hearing
the original language. Interestingly, the songs that were originally
published in German and French are performed in those languages.
Yet as I pointed out in my review of Volume 1 of the ‘Songbook’
there are precedents for the use of English. Many of the songs
have an English translation above/below the ‘foreign’ text in
the vocal score, suggesting that Delius was not averse to the
songs being sung in English. In fact, the composer provided
some of the translations himself. It is a question on which
my particular jury is currently out.
It is not necessary to comment on every song. This is a CD to
explore slowly and I suggest listening to it in ‘bite-sized
chunks’. The place to begin is with the two sets ‘Five Songs
from the Danish’. These are presented as they have been collected
in the Complete Delius Edition. I liked the rather melancholic
‘In the seraglio garden’ and ‘Irmelin’ out of the first set
and the delicious ‘Summer Night’
(On the Seashore) from the second. There is a rare beauty about
these songs that makes them almost timeless.
The Four Songs by Verlaine are grouped here, but are a combination
of ‘Deux Melodies’ dating from 1895 and two individual numbers
composed in 1910 and 1911. They are beautiful examples of a
cosmopolitan Englishmen writing fine ‘chanson’ in the French
style. There appears to be little stylistic dislocation between
the former and latter songs. They are delicious numbers that
are ‘with perfume laden’.
The Eleven Early Songs were only published in 1974. However,
they were all composed between 1885 and 1898. The liner notes
suggest that these are amongst the most conservative of the
composer’s songs. Nevertheless, in spite of the fact that there
is little to suggest the ‘Delius that we all know and love’
these are attractive numbers that well-deserve their place in
the singer’s repertoire. I was especially taken by the Heine
settings ‘With your blue eyes’ and ‘A beautiful star’.
It is good to have Delius’ last completed song here – the Verlaine
setting ‘Avant que tu ne t’en ailles’ – ‘Before you go away’.
This was composed in 1919 and was completed and published in
1932, just two years before the composer’s death. It is a harmonically
involved number that reflects the unusual structure of the poem.
My comments about the general presentation of this CD differ
little from the first volume. The performance by baritone, Mark
Stone and the accompanist Stephen Barlow is superb. I was impressed
with the liner notes, which include the concluding part of a
short essay entitled ‘An Englishman abroad, a foreigner at home
– Composing in sickness and in health.’ The commentary on the
songs themselves is thorough and helpful. Text and translations
are given along with a paragraph giving a brief description
of their literary and musical content.
I noted in my review of Volume 1 of the Songbook that I was
a little concerned about the ‘uniformity’ of the baritone voice
throughout this recital. I guess I would rather have had a variety
of singers where appropriate. However, this personal preference
does not detract in any way from the brilliance of Stone’s performance
or the validity of the Songbook project.
I have no doubt that all Delius enthusiasts will want to buy
a copy of this CD. Once again, the two performers convince listeners
that whilst Delius may not be in the first rank of song composers,
the many songs that he did write are invariably interesting,
well-constructed, often beautiful and sometimes quite moving.
Complete list of Songs
In the seraglio garden
Noch ein Mal
Nach neuen Meeren
Der Wandrer und sein Schatten
We laughed when days were merry
I hear in the night
Let springtime come
Il pleure dans mon cœur
Le ciel est, par-dessus le toit
La lune blanche
Avant que tu ne t’en ailles
Two brown eyes
O schneller, mein Ross
Chanson de Fortunio
Mit deinen blauen Augen
Ein schoener Stern
Hoer’ ich das Liedchen klingen
The page sat in the lofty tower
Summer nights (On the sea shore)
Through long, long years (Red roses)