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Delius: Violin Concerto, Etc / Tasmin Little, Mackerras


Release Date: 03/26/2010 
Label:  Decca   Catalog #: 433704   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Frederick Delius
Performer:  Tasmin Little
Conductor:  Sir Charles Mackerras
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Welsh National Opera Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 13 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Philip Heseltine referred to the First Dance Rhapsody theme as "bewitching"—bewitching indeed is the way the Welsh oboist leads off with the dancing after the introduction—and the penultimate molto adagio variation as "wonderful, causing tears". That last description is one this writer would reserve for Tasmin Little's account of the Violin Concerto.

In 1985 Unicorn- Kanchana issued a recording of the one movement Violin Concerto with Ralph Holmes and Vernon Handley, that gave us proof of the unfairness of Arthur Hutchings's question "where is the concerto of supreme merit whose soloist is first cause and continual dictator?", and laid to rest worries that Delius's use of handed down forms
Read more hindered his inspiration. It remains a classic reading, dear to the heart of all Delians, and not just because of Holmes's untimely death a few months after the sessions. Lasting over 26 minutes, it was an expansive view of the work: two minutes longer than Tasmin Little's, almost three minutes longer than Jean Pougnet's 1946 recording with Beecham (recently reissued on mid-price EM!). As Max Harrison put it in his original review, "an almost dreamlike atmosphere is established immediately and is maintained to the end". The sheer intensity of Holmes's playing, and the rapport with Handley prevented any danger of "dreamlike" ever becoming sleepy. Enter Mackerras with a stronger, more emphatic statement of the opening string chords (similar to Beecham) answered by confident, but appropriately sweet and songful tone from Little. The basic pace is faster with less slowing before bar lines, though progress is in no way metronomic. Argo's sound offers a closer view of both soloist and orchestra, and this immediacy goes hand in hand with the more purposeful manner. In fact, the piece behaves more like a conventional concerto with Little pressing forward (and more securely than Holmes) in the lead up to first orchestral fortissimo (at fig. 8, 3'13": one of the few brief punctuations in the otherwise constant flight of the soloist's song, and a Sort of concession to the classical ritornello); and then there's the extra contrast in tempo between this swift 'first movement' and the succeeding central 'slow' one, taken at a similar pace to Holmes and Handley. Whether that is an advantage, bearing in mind that Deryck Cooke defined the central section as a "development", I will leave to others to debate. Again Beecham provides the precedent; Holmes and Handley, with a more moderate range of tempos, were closer to Sammons and Sargent (Columbia, 9/44, reissued on World Records —both nla).

But, after the relative rigour and vigour of the newcomers' first movement, how gloriously this central section does develop. Here is a freer rein for the rising and falling of phrases, the hastening and slackening of tempo; and Little and Mackerras breathe as one, so essential for establishing seamless continuity. This is even present in the accompanied cadenza, which like Holmes and Handley, but unlike all previous recordings, has a properly ad lib feel to it—perfect accord allowing greater freedom to extract further marvels from the basic material. These ruminations reluctantly make way for movement, joyfully restored in the recapitulation, at the end of which (up to fig. 32, 17'45") one appreciates the new recording's capacity to handle the orchestra's repeated fanfare-like chords (and timpani crescendos) that rise from f to ffff—the Unicorn-Kanchana recording overloaded at such (albeit very few) moments.

Contrasts of mood (dynamics and tempo) are explored to the full in the final section, from the properly dancing semiquavers of the 12/8 Allegretto to the coda's tranquil summation of the main ideas. If only this were BBC Radio 3's "Saturday Review" I could play you the passage in between (after fig. 34, 18'35")—marked "rather quicker", Little here noticeably quickens the pulse of the music (and ours, too) with a seemingly utterly spontaneous burst of high spirits followed by molto appassionato tone for the broad rendition of the work's semiquaver turn (abetted in full at two before fig. 36 by Mackerras's Welsh strings); its last statement slower and more hushed than ever before. What a fabulous range of expression in just 15 bars! In short, I can't imagine any performance more likely to win the Concerto, and its composer, new and devoted friends. The sound is the most satisfying I've yet heard from this source, involving more of the acoustic of Swansea's Brangwyn Hall than usual. The soundstage has greater depth—gone is the occasionally dry, crowded and overbearing effect of full orchestra in the first issue of this series (Brigg Fair, North Country Sketches, etc., (2/90)—without loss of clarity or presence. Indeed, of the shorter pieces that make up this disc's generous duration, Sumnmer Night on the River is remarkable for the chamber-like intimacy of its sonorities, a Debussian delicacy of texture. Its final pages include the instruction "becoming softer as if dying away in the distance" and, throughout this disc, quite apart from Mackerras's other attributes that make him our most stimulating current exponent of Delius, his control of the familiar Delian concluding fade to niente is quite unsurpassed.

-- Jonathan Swain, Gramophone [7/1992]
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Works on This Recording

1.
Concerto for Violin by Frederick Delius
Performer:  Tasmin Little (Violin)
Conductor:  Sir Charles Mackerras
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Welsh National Opera Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1916; England 
Date of Recording: 05/1991 
Venue:  Brangwyn Hall, Swansea, Wales 
Length: 24 Minutes 23 Secs. 
2.
Aquarelles (2) by Frederick Delius
Conductor:  Sir Charles Mackerras
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Welsh National Opera Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1932; France 
Date of Recording: 05/1991 
Venue:  Brangwyn Hall, Swansea, Wales 
Length: 4 Minutes 35 Secs. 
3.
Pieces (2) for Small Orchestra: no 1, On Hearing the First Cuckoo by Frederick Delius
Conductor:  Sir Charles Mackerras
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Welsh National Opera Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1912; France 
Date of Recording: 12/1990 
Venue:  Brangwyn Hall, Swansea, Wales 
Length: 6 Minutes 55 Secs. 
4.
Pieces (2) for Small Orchestra: no 2, Summer Night on the River by Frederick Delius
Conductor:  Sir Charles Mackerras
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Welsh National Opera Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911; France 
Date of Recording: 05/1991 
Venue:  Brangwyn Hall, Swansea, Wales 
Length: 5 Minutes 52 Secs. 
5.
Fennimore and Gerda: Intermezzo by Frederick Delius
Conductor:  Sir Charles Mackerras
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Welsh National Opera Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1908-1910; France 
Date of Recording: 12/1990 
Venue:  Brangwyn Hall, Swansea, Wales 
Length: 5 Minutes 48 Secs. 
6.
Irmelin: Prelude by Frederick Delius
Conductor:  Sir Charles Mackerras
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Welsh National Opera Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1890-1892; Paris, France 
Date of Recording: 12/1990 
Venue:  Brangwyn Hall, Swansea, Wales 
Length: 5 Minutes 3 Secs. 
7.
Dance Rhapsody no 2 by Frederick Delius
Conductor:  Sir Charles Mackerras
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Welsh National Opera Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1916; France 
Date of Recording: 05/1991 
Venue:  Brangwyn Hall, Swansea, Wales 
Length: 7 Minutes 58 Secs. 
8.
Dance Rhapsody no 1 by Frederick Delius
Conductor:  Sir Charles Mackerras
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Welsh National Opera Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1908; France 
Date of Recording: 05/1991 
Venue:  Brangwyn Hall, Swansea, Wales 
Length: 13 Minutes 6 Secs. 

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