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Delius in Norway / A. Davis, Bergen

Delius / Moen / Bergen Philharmonic Orch / Davis
Release Date: 01/28/2014 
Label:  Chandos   Catalog #: 5131   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Frederick Delius
Performer:  Ann-Helen Moen
Conductor:  Sir Andrew Davis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Multi 
Length: 1 Hours 18 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Norway is a gorgeous country, and it’s no surprise that Delius found much of his inspiration there. The pieces on this intelligently planned program run from 1889-1917, and are programmed in roughly chronological order. They range from the charming orchestration of good friend Edvard Grieg’s Norwegian Bridal Procession to Delius’ first major works for orchestra (Paa Vidderne) and for the theatre (the incidental music to Folkeraadet), taking in a couple of orchestral songs along the way.

Paa Vidderne (On the Mountains) is a tone poem obviously of the Wagner/Liszt school, with plenty of hefty brass scoring and way too many cymbal crashes. It does not sound particularly Delian, but curiously the earlier Sleigh Ride’s calm
Read more central section clearly foreshadows the composer to come. Few listeners are probably aware that On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring is based on a Norwegian theme, but there it is, while Eventyr, which concludes the program, is a masterpiece of mood and turbulent atmosphere, sort of Delius’ answer to Sibelius’ En Saga.

This is one of those programs in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The selections are nicely varied. Ann-Helen Moen sings the two songs quite beautifully, and Andrew Davis, who recorded some very nice Delius for Teldec back in the day, knows his way around the music. It’s also good to hear non-British orchestras taking on this repertoire. Certainly the Bergen Philharmonic sounds just fine, although curiously, in Eventyr, the second of the two shouts (literally: the plays have to shout) is quite untidy. Not important, though, especially with fine sonics and a very generous nearly eighty minutes of playing time. A very enjoyable and interesting disc.

-- David Hurwitz,


With this SACD Andrew Davis continues his well-received series of Delius recordings on Chandos. The program, titled Delius in Norway , overlaps with Bo Holten’s CD Delius: Norwegian Masterworks , on Danacord, to the tune of two items, Eventyr and Sleigh Ride ; the major work on that recording is The Song of the High Hills.

Delius had a special love and affinity for the Nordic countries; he set many texts of Norwegian and Danish poets, and composed several orchestral works that depicted or evoked northern landscapes. Paa Vidderne , or “On the Heights,” is one of these. Composed in 1892, it is a fairly early work, but one with a compelling sweep not unlike that of Over the Hills and Far Away . Davis conveys this nicely, easily outclassing John Hopkins and the Slovak Philharmonic of Bratislava on an old Marco Polo CD. The brief Sleigh Ride (original title: Winter Night ), composed in 1889 but not heard until 1946, was one of the many Delius morsels resuscitated by Thomas Beecham; it’s ingenuous stuff but delightful nevertheless. Its middle section is reminiscent of the Florida Suite ; so much for geographical associations! Davis brings out the youthful Romanticism of this score without, however, making us forget Beecham’s inimitably stylish version of 1956.

The longest item here is the 25-minute suite of incidental music Delius wrote in 1897 for Gunnar Heiberg’s play Folkeraadet (The People’s Parliament). The play, a political satire, met with considerable resistance, as did Delius’s score, which controversially included the Norwegian national anthem, and the music is rarely heard; the single previous recording, as far as I can determine, is Hopkins’s, on the same CD as Paa Vidderne . While the music is attractive, there’s not much that’s memorable here, as there is in Delius’s later set of incidental music for Flecker’s Hassan . Again, here Davis scores easily over Hopkins.

The two most familiar works here are On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring and, to a lesser extent, Eventyr , subtitled “Once upon a Time.” In the former, present in this collection because it incorporates a Norwegian folk song, Davis successfully inhabits Delius’s uniquely atmospheric sound-world. In the latter, a fantastic, kaleidoscopic evocation of Norwegian folklore, I find Holten, despite some odd tempos, to be marginally more effective in bringing out the music’s many moods; he is aided by recorded sound that is somewhat more transparent than that Chandos provides for Davis. It remains for Beecham, in his two recordings, to find the perfect sense of timing and of orchestral balances and colors, even in pre-stereo sound.

Delius’s orchestration of Grieg’s Norwegian Bridal Procession dates from 1889. Considering how inexperienced he was in writing for orchestra, it is notable in its use of wind instruments. The two song orchestrations, done in 1908, show how far Delius had come in his mastery of the medium; they are attractively sung here by the Norwegian soprano Ann-Helen Moen. The songs are given in Norwegian, although it is unclear whether Delius set them in the original language or in English translation. Twilight Fancies (also known as Evening Voices ) is thereby saved from the inane English translation in which it is usually heard. Finally, I note that ArkivMusic indicates that Delius’s song A Late Lark is included on this CD; it is not.

The Bergen Philharmonic plays this music with style and polish; sound is typically spacious for Chandos. This is an altogether very attractive program of mostly rare Delius works; it is now certainly the preferred version for Paa Vidderne and Folkeraadet . Indispensable, therefore, for lovers of Delius’s music.

FANFARE: Richard A. Kaplan
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Works on This Recording

Paa Vidderne for Orchestra by Frederick Delius
Conductor:  Sir Andrew Davis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1890-1892; Paris, France 
Venue:  Grieghallen, Bergen, Norway 
Length: 14 Minutes 16 Secs. 
Folkeraadet "Norwegian Suite" by Frederick Delius
Conductor:  Sir Andrew Davis
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1897; France 
Venue:  Grieghallen, Bergen, Norway 
Length: 3 Minutes 15 Secs. 
Pieces (2) for Small Orchestra: no 1, On Hearing the First Cuckoo by Frederick Delius
Conductor:  Sir Andrew Davis
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1912; France 
Venue:  Grieghallen, Bergen, Norway 
Length: 6 Minutes 20 Secs. 
Eventyr "Once upon a Time" by Frederick Delius
Conductor:  Sir Andrew Davis
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1917; France 
Venue:  Grieghallen, Bergen, Norway 
Length: 15 Minutes 12 Secs. 
A Late Lark by Frederick Delius
Conductor:  Sir Andrew Davis
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1929 
Venue:  Grieghallen, Bergen, Norway 
Length: 3 Minutes 49 Secs. 
Songs (7) from the Norwegian: no 3, Evening Voices "Twilight Fancies" by Frederick Delius
Performer:  Ann-Helen Moen ()
Conductor:  Sir Andrew Davis
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1890 
Venue:  Grieghallen, Bergen, Norway 
Length: 3 Minutes 55 Secs. 
Songs (7) from the Norwegian: no 7, The Bird's Story by Frederick Delius
Performer:  Ann-Helen Moen ()
Conductor:  Sir Andrew Davis
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1889-1890; Paris, France 
Venue:  Grieghallen, Bergen, Norway 
Length: 3 Minutes 33 Secs. 
Norwegian Sleigh Ride, RT ix/3 by Frederick Delius
Conductor:  Sir Andrew Davis
Period: Modern 
Written: circa 1887; Norway 
Venue:  Grieghallen, Bergen, Norway 
Length: 5 Minutes 43 Secs. 

Sound Samples

Folkelivsbilleder, Op. 19: No. 2. Brudefolget drager forbi (Bridal Procession) (arr. F. Delius): Folkelivsbilleder, Op. 19: No. 2. Brudefolget drager forbi (Bridal Procession) (arr. F. Delius for orchestra)
Paa Vidderne (On the Heights)
7 Songs From the Norwegian (version for voice and orchestra): No. 3. Evening Voices (Twilight Fancies)
7 Songs From the Norwegian (version for voice and orchestra): No. 7. The Bird's Story
3 Small Tone Poems: No. 2. Winter Night (Sleigh Ride)
Folkeraadet: Norwegian Suite: I. Prelude to Act I: Con moto - Molto tranquillo - Tempo I
Folkeraadet: Norwegian Suite: II. Interlude between Acts I-II: Con spirito - Allargando - Piu tranquillo - Tempo I - Maestoso, piu lento - Allargando al fine
Folkeraadet: Norwegian Suite: II. Melodrama in Act II: Molto tranquillo
Folkeraadet: Norwegian Suite: III. Interlude between Acts II-III: Allegro energico – Maestoso, piu lento – Andante espressivo, molto tranquillo - Con moto - Vivo - Presto - Lento molto tranquillo - Maestoso
Folkeraadet: Norwegian Suite: III. Melodrama in Act V: -
Folkeraadet: Norwegian Suite: IV. Interlude between Acts IV-V: Marcia, lento solenne - Solenne - Lento - Allegro, ma non troppo - Moderato - Allegro moderato con humore
2 Pieces for Small Orchestra: No. 1. On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring
Eventyr, "Once Upon a Time"

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 A superb selection that showcases Frederick Deliu June 18, 2014 By John France See All My Reviews "My major discovery on this CD is the incidental music for the play Folkeraadet (The People’s Parliament) which was composed in 1897. I should have known this music as it was previously released on Marco Polo 220452, however for one thing and another I never got round to hearing it. Delius was commissioned to write this music by the playwright Gunnar Heiberg, who was one of the composer’s companions in his Paris circle of friends. The play was a ‘satirical comedy’ which explored the fraught relationship between Norway and Sweden at a time when that latter country was dominating affairs. The inclusion of the Norwegian national anthem in the score led to near riots, with shots being fired by a member of the audience. The music was withdrawn, then after a debate at the University it was decided to reinstate the score, but finally due to continual protests and interruptions the music was abandoned for good. Delius must have felt that the score was good as he used large sections of it in his Norwegian Suite. This was to remain unpublished in his lifetime. The score was edited by Sir Thomas Beecham and Eric Fenby. It is divided up into four main sections, a Prelude followed by three ‘interludes’ with a couple of ‘melodramas’ between the interludes. The music is largely cheerful from start to finish; the final interlude with the ‘offending’ quotation from the national anthem is much more solemn than what has already transpired. This music is hardly typical of what the listener has come to expect from Delius in his more ‘mature’ years. I guess that Dvorak, Grieg and Elgar are the models here. There is nothing of In a summer Garden or the First Cuckoo in these pages. It is an altogether enjoyable score that can be listened to with great pleasure without any reference to the plot of Heiberg’s play. The CD opens with Delius’ orchestration of Edvard Grieg’s Norwegian Bridal Procession. Delius had been invited to a village wedding party when he was in Norway in 1887. The Grieg original derives from one of his Pictures of Norwegian Life, Op.19 (1872). It is a delightful tribute to the elder composer. One again this music was not published in the composer’s lifetime. Paa Vidderne, after Henrik Ibsen’s eponymous poem, is not a composition that I often listen too, which is a pity. The work, which bears the English title of On the Heights, is a fine tone poem that owes much to Wagner and especially Tchaikovsky in it musical sound-world. It was given its first performance in 1894; the genesis of the piece dates back to 1888 when Delius composed an ‘orchestral melodrama’ which involved the ‘declamation’ of Ibsen’s poem. This was revised into an overture which was heard in 1891. It was further revised in 1892. A sketch for the work had been made when Delius was on a tour of Jotunheimen, which is a mountainous region of Norway. Once again this work is not in Delius’ ‘received’ style: however, there are a number of moments when the music sounds just a little like what we expect. It is a fine example of a late-nineteenth century ‘symphonic poem’ and deserves more publicity that it seemingly gets. Does it conjure up a mountain landscape? That is for the listener of discern. Out of interest, there are currently only six version of this work on disc, which compares with 15 for Paris and 60 for On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring. I enjoyed the beautiful voice of Ann-Helen Moen singing two of the ‘Seven Songs from the Norwegian’ which were composed in 1889. These songs, with texts by Bjornstjerne Bjornson and Henrik Ibsen, originally for voice and piano, were dedicated to Grieg’s wife, Nina. In 1908, at Granville Bantock’s request, Delius orchestrated Prinsessen (Twilight Fancies) and En Fuglevise (The Bird’s Story) for the soprano Olga Wood (Henry Wood’s first wife). They were performed at concerts in Liverpool and Birmingham. Wagner and Richard Strauss seem to be the models here rather than Norwegian folksong. I only wish that the other five had been part of Bantock’s request to the composer: they would make a stunning, major song cycle. Little need be said about the delightful Sleigh Ride. This has long been a favourite of mine. It conjures up as no other music does (except perhaps Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride) the joy of this mode of travel on a cold, frosty winter’s day. Originally composed for piano solo in 1887, it was orchestrated two years later. It would become one of the Three Small Tone Poems. Sleigh Ride (also known as Winter’s Night) had to wait until 1946 for its first orchestral performance. My heart has always placed the ‘location’ of Delius’s best-known work somewhere in the Home Counties on a hot, sultry, late spring day. My head tells me that the location is more likely to be Trolhaugen in Norway, as the composer introduces the beautiful tune ‘In Ola Dal’ (In Ola Valley’) which was discerned by Percy Grainger (The tune also features in Grieg’s 19 Norwegian Folksongs, Op. 66.) My benchmark recording is not Sir Thomas Beecham but Anthony Collins’ 1953 version on Decca. I am looking for a ‘ravishing’ sound that is to a certain extent unfocused, but avoids ‘rhythmic monotony’ in its formal structure. The First Cuckoo was composed in 1912 and was published the following year with its companion piece Summer Night on the River. Does the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra under Sir Andrew Davis deliver on this piece? I am not sure that it does. It is beautifully played, but somehow he just does not get the mood right. I am sure that others will disagree. The final work on this adventurous CD exploring Delius’ ‘Norwegian Legacy’ is the eccentric, but ultimately beautiful ‘ballad’ Eventyr. The translation of this title is ‘Tales of Adventure.’ The music had its inspiration in Peter Christen Asbjørnsen's (1812-1885) edition of Norwegian folk-tales and legends. The earliest sketches date from 1915. Delius denied that any particular story was implied in the music: it has been suggested that the nature of the piece does suggest that there may well be a ‘hidden’ programme lurking in these pages. There is a pastoral opening section which may portray ‘the warm-hearted superstitious country folk’ before the music moves on to more sinister things such as trolls, pixies and giants. There is a weird moment when an off-stage male chorus make two menacing cries. I agree with the liner notes that this ‘eerie cry out of the night’ is among the strangest and most original moments in all orchestral music? This is a masterpiece and it is a pity that it does not seem to be held in high regard. Eventyr (Once upon a time) was dedicated to Sir Henry Wood, and it was duly premiered on 11 January 1919. I cannot find fault with this CD. The liner notes by Andrew Burn are excellent, the quality of the sound reproduction is ideal and the enthusiasm and dedication of the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra and their conductor Sir Andrew Davis is palpable – in spite of my misgivings over the First Cuckoo. But above all, the programme of works has been lovingly selected by Chandos: it is superb selection that showcases Frederick Delius’ deep affection for Norway and his absorption of its culture, and finally his friendship with Edvard Grieg. With Thanks to MusicWeb International where this review first appeared." Report Abuse
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