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Delius: Orchestral Works
Of the works performed here by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra under the prominent Delius interpreter Sir Andrew Davis, the first three (Paris, the Piano Concerto, and Idylle de printemps) offer a fascinating insight into the early years of the development of Delius as a composer, when he was slowly and painstakingly honing his craft, and assuming the characteristic personal voice that is evident in more mature works such as Brigg Fair.
Paris, sub-titled ‘The Song of a Great City’, is strongly inspired by the composer’s many years of living and working in Paris. With large-scale orchestral forces, Delius paints opulent pictures of a city that he obviously loved. The slow opening portrays the still darkness falling over Paris; then the music changes pace and takes us through the teeming and intoxicating nightlife of the city, with impressions of exuberant dance music coming from the many cafés and music-halls. The opening material returns, culminating in the sounds of the awakening streets.
Until recently Delius’s Piano Concerto has been know exclusively in its final, one-movement form, which was first performed in London in 1907. The version recorded here, however, represents the composer’s earlier thoughts, from 1897. Performed by Howard Shelley, the work is brimming with full-bodied romanticism while showing the influences of Grieg and Liszt throughout.
The airy mood of Idylle de printemps points to later depictions of nature in Delius’s music, as in Brigg Fair, which Delius categorised as ‘An English Rhapsody’. Cecil Gray, the Scottish music critic and composer, described the opening of Brigg Fair as ‘evoking the atmosphere of an early summer morning in the English countryside’. The work is based on a folk-tune which came to light in a competition instigated by Percy Grainger in 1905 to find ‘the best unpublished old Lincolnshire folk song or plough song’. Grainger was immediately taken with the folk-tune, and having arranged it himself for solo tenor and chorus, he approached Delius to write orchestral variations on it – urging him on as the only composer worthy of the task. Delius was soon persuaded, and Brigg Fair became one of his best-loved works.
“Delius's piano writing isn't that of a natural virtuoso, but here Shelley transforms it with some really sensitive phrasing and an ability to make the patterns of the figuration sound idiomatic...Davis proves himself an instinctive Delian in the way he delineates the shifting moods and colours of Paris and Brigg Fair: these must be among the best current accounts of both works.” BBC Music Magazine, Christmas 2012 *****
“Shelley and Sir Andrew Davis bring rather more in the way of epic ambition and romantic ardour to this likeable music [the Concerto] than do their Hyperion rivals, though at times greater rhythmic snap would not have gone amiss...As for the remainder, Davis makes a lovely job of the early Idylle de printemps.” Gramophone Magazine, November 2012
“I believe that Andrew Davis is possibly the greatest conductor of this music since Beecham. Davis is so in touch with the unique qualities of Delius's genius as to cause one to stop and reconsider the music...I cannot image any of the works on this eminently desirable disc being better performed than they are here” International Record Review, December 2012
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Great Conductors - Beecham
“There always was a unique alchemy between the art of Sir Thomas Beecham and the music of Frederick Delius, and you can detect it in every bar. … It is, quite simply, a performance to cherish, its beaming dedication, wistful heartache and rapt wonder leaving the listener in no doubt Sir Thomas' boundless love for a work that served as his introduction to the composer. David Lennick's transfers have been admirably managed, Appalachia now sounding rather more open and full-bodied than on a rival Dutton compilation.” Gramophone
“There always was a unique alchemy between the art of Sir Thomas Beecham and the music of Frederick Delius, to be heard in every bar of this remarkable January 1938 recording of Appalachia.
It's a performance of beaming dedication, wistful heartache and rapt wonder leaves the listener in no doubt about Sir Thomas's boundless love for a work that served as his introduction to the composer. (He later recalled how the 1907 London premiere under Fritz Cassirer left him 'startled and electrified'.) By July 1938 Beecham and the LPO had committed to disc the three remaining items that eventually made up The Delius Society's lavishly presented third and final volume of the composer's music issued by Columbia Records; suffice it to say, La Calinda skips along entrancingly here, while no true Delian could fail to respond to Beecham's ineffably poignant way with both the closing scene from Hassan and the lovely Irmelin Prelude.
Naxos's curtain-raiser, Brigg Fair, was recorded towards the end of the previous decade. Some seven months separated the two days required to produce a reading of unforgettable tenderness and bewitching poetry (the results of an even earlier session in July 1928 having been rejected altogether), although some will still hold a slight preference for the second of Sir Thomas's three versions (a gloriously intuitive display with the newly formed RPO from November 1946).
David Lennick's transfers have been admirably managed, Appalachia now sounding rather more open and full bodied than on a rival Dutton compilation. Throw in a lively and informative booklet-essay from Lyndon Jenkins, not to mention the absurdly low price-tag, and it should be abundantly clear that this is a selfrecommending issue.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
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Marking the 150th Anniversary of Delius’ birth date in 1862, Decca Classics releases the ‘Delius Edition’ - the most comprehensive Collection of Delius’ music ever put together on 8CD and featuring noted Delius conductor Sir Charles Mackerras.
Containing all of Delius’s major work, this cap-box set combines the major orchestra & choral works of Brigg Fair, Sea Drift, In a Summer Garden, Florida Suite, The Walk to the Paradise Garden, Piano Concerto, Violin Concerto & Paris: Song of a Great City along with the major chamber music, such as the Cello Sonata, String Quartet and 4 Part Songs. The set culminates in Delius’s masterpiece, his opera, A Village Romeo and Juliet.
Featuring a cast of great artists and performers, including Thomas Hampson, Julian Lloyd Webber, the Fitzwilliam Quartet, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, Sir Neville Marriner & Sir Charles Mackerras.
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