"Delius in Norway"
Frederick Delius: Folkelivsbilleder – Paa Vidderne – Two Songs from ‘The Norwegian’ – Sleigh Ride – Folkeraadet – On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring – Eventyr
Ann-Helen Moen (Soprano), Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, Sir Andrew Davis (Conductor)
Recorded at Grieghallen, Bergen (April 15-18, 2013) – 78’32
Chandos # CHSA 5131 Booklet in English
Music of Frederick Delius is not particularly mainstream classical music. Bradford, England born his exposure to living in faraway places, influences of select artists and contemporaries helped form his own musical vocabulary. Influenced by Wagner and Grieg, the latter’s style was most appealing to him, and in "Delius in Norway" we can see this colorful blossoming of idyllic pieces unfold.
Inspired by one of Grieg’s most gorgeous compositions, Brudefølget drar forbi (The Bridal Procession Passes) (1870-1871), Delius takes the Norwegian’s melodic framework and transforms it into his own Norwegian Bridal Procession (1889) that Sir Andrew Davis moves along in a much faster tempo. For those with a keen Grieg ear, one will find the subtle shifts in instruments Delius uses in this passage. Woodwinds are more prominent; the conclusion finds Delius exchanging Grieg’s solo violin with woodwinds, and the composition is more deeply toned.
A personal visit to work on the family farm in Norway, On the Mountains (1889-1891) refreshes pleasant imageries of being enveloped in the ruggedness of the seter (summer mountain farm.) The Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra captures Delius’ music with shimmering majesty and panoramic immensity but with a stately English draw.
The Norwegian features soprano Ann-Helen Moen who spreads through the Delius notes in a buttery wisp of freshness. “Prinzessen” rings beautiful solemnity while “The Bird’s Story”, ballad in a 3/4 approach, rolls along in airy form.
While cadences of Leroy Anderson’s composition immediately jump to mind, Delius’ Sleigh Ride tone poem diverges into a wintry matrix miring at times, but returns for a breather by winding back to the lighter opening bars.
Incidental music for the play by Gunnar Heiberg, The People’s Parliament (1897) consists of six interludes and preludes that vary in texture. Canonic form initiates in the “Prelude to Act I” that bears great resemblance to Carl Nielsen’s opera, Maskerade (1906). Beyond this is the “Interlude Between Acts I-II” which shows a freer Delius, letting loose in strings and chromatic values. Distant blasts from the brass bring reminisces of Verdi’s ballet music from Otello. Military revelry reigns at times (i.e. Auber’s Fra Diavolo), and the subdued “Melodrama in Act V” brings to light the peaceful Summer Night on the River (1911).
Sir Andrew Davis doesn’t slow down his pacing on this Chandos recording. On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring (1912) is a bit rushed for personal taste, diminishing the avian effect that Delius would likely have desired.
The ballad, Eventyr (1915-1917), is a musical translation based on Asbjørnsen’s Folklore, possessing a mystical yet magical formulation. Wagnerian influences are evident and rush forth later in the piece with dramatic crescendos. Use of xylophone renders Asian élan and trends heavily toward modernism, so much that it anticipates Heggie’s Moby Dick in pockets.
Those who underestimate Frederick Delius may want to visit this "Delius in Norway". Chandos has done a fine job in sound; selections are wonderful, adding another dimension to this thoughtful and pensive composer.