Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934)
Cello Sonata (1916) [14:48]
Romance (1896) [6:23]
Creole Dance from Koanga (1895-97) [5:37]
Three Pieces from Hassan (1923): Introduction [2:04]; Serenade [4:20]; Dance of the Daughters of Delight [2:40]
Summer Night on the Water [2:32]
George DYSON (1883-1964)
Prelude, Fantasy and Chaconne (1936) [23:48]
Two Pieces: The Wife of Bath (1930) [3:31]: River Music [3:55]
Andrew Shulman (cello)
Ian Brown (piano)
rec. September 1987, St James Church, Clerkenwell, London
CONTINUUM CCD1025 [66:18]

This isn’t a new release but it seems now to have received a fresh injection of promotion from Continuum. As such it offers a still very rare-to-find example of George Dyson’s chamber music, and smaller ancillary pieces, as well as some choice examples of Delius’ cello compositions.

Delius’ Cello Sonata can take a variety of approaches, largely predicated on tempo-relations. Andrew Shulman and Ian Brown’s thoughtful, sensitive, and introspective take on the sonata places them at something of an expressive extreme, alongside the line taken by Julian Lloyd Webber and Eric Fenby in their recording. These are both scrupulous but expansive readings. Beatrice Harrison is the best-remembered interpreter of the composer’s cello works, more so even than Barjansky, and she and Harold Craxton motored through it in 12:51, an approach mirrored by later practitioners such as Raphael and Peter Wallfisch and Huw and Paul Watkins – familial teams both, and both on Chandos as well – who adopt a similar approach to the work’s various sections. Shulman and Brown stretch things to nearly fifteen minutes though the salient features of their performance are sheer intimacy, restraint of vibrato usage, and a cumulative sense of reverie as the works comes to a genuinely well-won conclusion. The smaller satellite pieces are the less well-known Romance, warmly played and the well-known Creole Dance from Koanga, the three delightful pieces from Hassan – a boon for string players – and the lovely Summer Night on the Water.

In the intervening years since this recording was made the original version - for cello and small orchestra - of Dyson’s Prelude, Fantasy and Chaconne has appeared (WHL 2153). As I wrote of that release it’s audibly indebted to Delius. There’s a dreamy stasis which is gripping in its quiet intensity and strongly Delian introspection. The solo line is both capricious and whimsically vibrant, whilst the Chaconne draws on nobler hues, rears up but ends with a certain degree of elliptical distance. What emerges from this recasting for cello and piano most explicitly is the stalking bass figures in the Chaconne as well as its overtly lyric pastoralism. Shulman’s patrician approach ensures that the music never gets bogged down. The vivacious delights of The Wife of Bath music from The Canterbury Tales are augmented by the gliding lyricism of River Music.

With nice annotations and unproblematic recording, this is still a very effective combination, the Dyson reflecting Delian influence in an appropriate and suggestive way. You will hear more extrovert, eager recordings of the Delius but this one sticks to its expressive guns and is all the more welcome for so doing.

Jonathan Woolf


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