It's unlikely that even hardcore Delius fans would suggest this collection as representative of the best the composer had to offer, but by the same token those fans will find an unusual perspective on his work here. Despite the title, Delius did not live in Norway; instead, the notes inform, Norway was his "spiritual home." Even that seems a bit strong, but all the music here has one Norwegian connection or another, and nobody else has put these pieces together in this way. Most of them are early works in a sort of general nationalist style; there are Norwegian folk melodies in several of the pieces, and they're charming even if not really characteristic of what makes Delius unusual. Soprano Ann-Helen Moen gives a lovely performance of the Two Songs from the Norwegian (tracks 3 and 4). The most unusual item, worthwhile for sheer oddity even if it's hard for the uninitiated listener to figure out what's going on, is Folkeraadet (tracks 6-11), a set of incidental music for a satirical Norwegian play by a writer Delius met in Paris. It sounds neither like Delius nor much like anyone else (the lighter side of early Sibelius, maybe), and Delius was apparently encouraged to have fun tinkering with the Norwegian national anthem in its composition. It doesn't fit terribly well with On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring, the only example of top-drawer Delius on the album, and one that's included only because of its incidental Norwegian content: it contains a Norwegian folk melody that came Delius' way via Australian composer Percy Grainger. Andrew Davis, leading Norway's Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, remains a sterling Delius interpreter.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Seven Songs from the Norwegian|