Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934)
The Complete Delius Songbook - Volume 2
Five Songs from the Danish (Set 1) (c.1897)[16: 53]
Noch ein Mal (1898)[2:47]
Lieder nach gedichten von Friedrich Nietzsche (1898) [6:39]
Four Posthumous Songs –Danish (1895/1901)[4:34]
Songs to Words by Various Poets –Danish and Swedish [8:04]
Songs to Poems by Paul Verlaine [8:48]
Avant que tu ne t’en ailles (1919) 3:26]
Eleven Early Songs –Danish, German & French (1885-1898) [17:04]
Five Songs from the Danish (Set 2) [10:03]
Mark Stone (baritone); Stephen Barlow (piano)
rec. The Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex, 21-23 February 2011
full tracklist at end of review
STONE RECORDS 5060192780109 [75:33]
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 results.
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.
Invariably interesting, well-constructed, often beautiful and sometimes quite moving.
Complete list of Songs
- The Violet
- In the seraglio garden
- Silken shoes
- Noch ein Mal
- Nach neuen Meeren
- Der Wandrer
- Der Einsame
- Der Wandrer und sein Schatten
- We laughed when days were merry
- I hear in the night
- Let springtime come
- Black roses
- Summer landscape
- Il pleure dans mon cœur
- Le ciel est, par-dessus le toit
- La lune blanche
- Chanson d’automne
- Avant que tu ne t’en ailles
- Two brown eyes
- Der Fichtenbaum
- O schneller, mein Ross
- Chanson de Fortunio
- Mit deinen blauen Augen
- Ein schoener Stern
- Hoer’ ich das Liedchen klingen
- Traum Rosen
- The page sat in the lofty tower
- Dreamy nights
- Summer nights (On the sea shore)
- Through long, long years (Red roses)
- Wine roses