> DELIUS British Music Collection [GL]: Classical Reviews- January 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934)
Violin Concerto

Tasmin Little (violin)
Welsh National Opera Orchestra conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras
(recorded in 1991)

Piano Concerto

Jean-Rodolphe Kars (piano)
London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Alexander Gibson
(recorded in 1969)

Two Pieces for Cello and Piano: Caprice and Elegy
Julian Lloyd-Webber (cello) and Bengt Forsberg (piano)
(recorded in 1996)
On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring

Welsh National Orchestra conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras
(recorded in 1990)

Brigg Fair (An English Rhapsody)
London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Anthony Collins
(Mono – recorded in 1953)

DECCA British Music Collection 2CDs 470 190-2 [77:25] Budget

The Violin Concerto

If I were a violinist I would relish playing Delius’s delightful concerto. The violin enters with an exquisite phrase full of longing, passion and tenderness. Tasmin Little’s command of this concerto is apparent from the very first note.

The Concerto is cast in one continuous movement. The first section is beautifully melodic. The cadenza is beautifully structured and executed. A joyous orchestral tutti heralds the final allegretto section that gains in intensity and excitement. The orchestra plays a greater role here and the violin speaks eloquently straight to the heart. A lively dance tune followed by a pastoral theme brings this lovely concerto to a close.

The Piano Concerto

A gentle pastoral theme opens this composition and the piano enters with Grieg-like chords, which soon give way to a nostalgic melodic childlike gentleness. This powerful concerto is given the full Romantic treatment by Jean-Rodolphe Kars. Originally composed as a three movement work, it was later revised as a single movement piece. It demonstrates the significant influence of Grieg. Kars gives an heroic performance, highlighting light and dark passages to good effect. His rapport with the orchestra is well defined especially during the pianissimo passages in what may have been the slow movement, and later when the music becomes dreamlike and there is a sense of longing. As the work draws to a conclusion one senses a contented resolution and the Concerto ends in a full forte flourish.

Two pieces for piano and cello.

The two short delicate pieces for piano and cello, written when Delius was blind and paralysed, seem to mirror the composer’s despair and frustration. They are played with sensitivity by Bengt Forsberg and Julian Lloyd Webber. In the Caprice the influence of Grieg is again very apparent especially in the delightful rippling piano phrases. Elegy contrasts despair with moments of joy and Lloyd Webber’s playing seems to get to the heart of the music. These two miniatures were amongst the last pieces Delius wrote, aided by his friend and amanuensis, Eric Fenby.

On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring

On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring was composed in 1912 and is one of Delius’s best-known works. It is folk song and Grieg-influenced and yet its Englishness is very strong. Was Delius longing for his homeland? The Welsh Opera Orchestra are in fine form.

Brigg Fair

Brigg Fair is an orchestral rhapsody with a central theme and variations. There is an opening birdsong-like sequence that seems to recall a bygone age. There follows a short haunting passage for the horn. A rather jolly dance tune plays before a final orchestral tutti and the music fades as if the sun has gone down. The London Symphony Orchestra is conducted by Anthony Collins, himself a composer, who recorded many noteworthy albums for Decca. His series of Sibelius symphonies (on Beulah - recently deleted) is regarded as a classic of the gramophone. Here he gives an idiosyncratic reading of Brigg Fair that seems to be redolent of the English countryside. The mono sound, although a little congested at times, is no real hindrance to its enjoyment.


This Delius compilation, often strongly Scandinavian-influenced, and with a Violin Concerto to cherish and play over and over again, makes a fine addition to any British music collection. Unhesitatingly recommended!

Grace Lace


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