To call Frederick Delius’ music “English” would be misleading. Delius was very much a man of the world. but he took special delight in two geographic regions: the American southeast and Norway. With the Chandos CD called “Delius in Norway,” conductor Sir Andrew Davis continues recording the works of Delius with the focus on works either intended for Norwegian audiences or inspired by the country.
The album begins with Delius’ orchestration of Edvard Grieg’s Norwegian Bridal Procession. Although an early effort in Delius’ career, it is a masterful arrangement of what was originally a piano piece.
The tone poem Paa Vidderne (On the Mountains) is a bombastic piece reminiscent of Richard Wagner. The orchestra successfully depicts the sweeping grandeur of the Norwegian terrain.
At first it might seem strange that the Delius work that most fits the “English Pastorale” label, On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring, is included on this recording. But in fact the main theme from the work for small orchestra is based on a Norwegian folk tune. Delius first heard it through an arrangement by Grieg from his piano settings (Op.66).
The atmospheric Eventyr (Once upon a Time) was inspired by folk tales by Peter Christen Asbjornsen and Jorgen Moe. Literally translated as “Tales of Adventure,” the composition is heavy on percussion and even gives the orchestra musicians a chance to shout during their performance.
The longest work on the album is a suite of music Delius wrote for a play called The People’s Parliament. Called Folkeraadet in Norway, the production brought controversy, in part because of a musical parody of the national anthem. At the opening performance nationalistic students rioted and a shot was fired at the English composer (It was later discovered to be a cap gun).
This album also includes Two Songs from the Norwegian and Sleigh Ride. Both are fine performances by Davis with soprano Ann-Helen Moen and the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra.
This isn’t the disc you’re looking for if you’re wanting an album that reflects Delius’ original sound. But it is a generous helping (78 minutes) of music that shows a side of Frederick Delius we don’t always acknowledge. Another work inspired by the Norwegian landscape, The Song of the High Hills, was recorded by Sir Andrew Davis and the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus on an earlier Chandos release.