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Delius: Life's Dance, Irmelin Suite, Poem of Life & Love / Lloyd-Jones

Delius / Rsno / Lloyd-jones
Release Date: 07/12/2011 
Label:  Dutton Laboratories/Vocalion   Catalog #: 7264  
Composer:  Frederick Delius
Conductor:  David Lloyd-Jones
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

DELIUS Life’s Dance. Irmelin Suite (arr. Beecham). Poem of Life and Love. A Village Romeo and Juliet: Suite (arr. D. Matthews) David Lloyd-Jones, cond; Royal Scottish Natl O DUTTON EPOCH CDXL 7264 (68:06)

In Delius as I Knew Him , Eric Fenby notes, “At the same age at which Strauss had a Don Read more Juan and Sibelius an En Saga to their respective credit, Delius was still plodding away at orchestral works which in their quiet moods plainly showed the influence of Grieg, and in their more vigorous moods the spell that the second manly theme in Don Juan had cast over him—the magnificent theme that is first given out by the horns. Forty years later he still reveled in that theme, and rarely missed an opportunity of hearing the work.” Even as Delius found his own distinctive voice around the turn of the century in such things as Appalachia, A Village Romeo and Juliet, and A Mass of Life the achievement was paralleled by an irresistible urge to rival Strauss on his own turf. The 1899 symphonic poem, La Ronde se déroule , revised in 1912 as Life’s Dance —that is, after having delivered himself of such quintessentially Delian works as Brigg Fair and Songs of Sunset —the composer thought Life’s Dance “…my best orchestral work.” Where Don Juan is a concatenation of superbly arresting ideas, Delius’s gaudy orchestral glees are lavished upon mediocre melodic material. Its program, the latest in a venerable tradition harking back through Don Juan to Liszt’s Les Préludes , depicts its protagonist in full swagger disporting himself in the hurly-burly of worldly affairs, combat, amorous adventure, and sudden death. In orchestral virtuosity it overtops the Strauss of the tone poems, though one listens in vain for a moment comparable to that theme in Don Juan which so enthralled him. As an upshot, flair, élan, and absolute commitment are required to hold the listener’s attention through the episodic looseness of Life’s Dance . Lloyd-Jones and the Scottish National are not lacking, and an aural peacock’s tail fans out gorgeously. It must be noted, though, that in Bo Holten’s account, with the Aarhus Symphony (Danacord 536), Delius’s orchestral cleverness is at least as glowing, while detail is etched with an absolute conviction, which seizes one by the hair.

One dwells on Life’s Dance as the readiest, most finished, instance of Delius’s preoccupation with the Strauss of the tone poems and with the loose scenario of Life’s Dance implicit in the title, Poem of Life and Love , on which he worked intensively, despite failing health, during 1918, returning to it intermittently until blindness and paralysis forced him to set it aside. When the young Fenby volunteered to act as his amanuensis in 1928, revision of the Poem of Life and Love was one of their first projects. An extended central section was removed and separately rounded as A Song of Summer . Delius died in 1934 without giving the Poem a final dispensation, a task left to Delius scholar Robert Threlfall. His recension was published in 1997. Fine, concise annotations by Paul Guinery and Martin Lee-Brown assert “The work has been publicly performed only once, in Suffolk by the Haverhill Sinfonia under Kevin Hill on 17 March 2002,” though The New Grove cites a broadcast performance by the BBC Concert Orchestra under Vernon Handley, March 9, 1999. This, in any case, is the Poem ’s disc premiere. As in Life’s Dance , despite orchestral wizardry, Delius’s melodic inspiration is less than compelling. Even with the excision of its central section— A Song of Summer plays around 10 minutes—the Poem meanders for 17 minutes, its luxurious eloquence affording many ripe Delian moments and but perfunctory trajectory. Nonetheless, no one who cares for Delius will want to be without these testaments to his most deeply held convictions—convictions, moreover, upon which he expended enormous expressive energy at a time when energy was in failing supply—though they ring more truly and with deeper resonance in such things as A Mass of Life, A Song of the High Hills , or Eventyr.

The suite Thomas Beecham drew from Delius’s first opera, Irmelin (1890/92), catches the composer at his freshest and most endearing, while that arranged by David Matthews from A Village Romeo and Juliet allows us to gauge the prodigious maturity achieved in a decade as Delius becomes the movingly elegiac poet of nature, love, and evanescence. Eschewing the familiar “Walk to the Paradise Garden,” Matthews’s four linked excerpts evoke the pastoral background of the opera, the love music of scene 3, the Paradise Garden revelry, and the final pages as the lovers float away on a barge to consummate their love and drown.

The CD itself is engagingly composed, with the tone poems followed by the briefer movements of the suites, as in the headnote. Dutton’s exemplary capture is immediate, packing a wallop in onrushing passages, while quieter moments are never allowed to slip away but loom with affective force, all gratifyingly detailed. Highest recommendation.

FANFARE: Adrian Corleonis
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Works on This Recording

Life's Dance by Frederick Delius
Conductor:  David Lloyd-Jones
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1899-1901; France 
A Village Romeo and Juliet: Suite by Frederick Delius
Conductor:  David Lloyd-Jones
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1900-1901; France 
Poem of Life and Love by Frederick Delius
Conductor:  David Lloyd-Jones
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1918 
Irmelin: Suite by Frederick Delius
Conductor:  David Lloyd-Jones
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Notes: Arranger: Thomas Beecham. 

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