Århus Symphony Orchestra / Henriette Bonde-Hansen / Bo Holten

Frederick Delius: French Masterworks

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From 1903 on, except for an evacuation during World War I, Frederick Delius made France his home, and it was there where he composed much of his mature music. Yet as inspired as he was by the French countryside and culture, his music never found much favor in Parisian musical circles, and never became associated in the public imagination as particularly Gallic. This album by Bo Holten and the Århus Symphony Orchestra presents Delius' French masterworks (continuing their series of CDs on Danacord of Delius' English masterworks, Danish masterworks, and Norwegian masterworks), and for the most part the selections show a heightened French influence, though that never conceals the essential style that was uniquely his own. The Prelude to Delius' verismo opera Margot la Rouge offers a gentle ambience highlighted by vaguely impressionistic chromaticism, and In a Summer Garden shows some hints of Fauré and Debussy, though Delius' long, lyrical lines, lush harmonies, and languorous tempos are the same as ever. The Five Songs on poems by Paul Verlaine, with orchestrations by Philip Heseltine (aka Peter Warlock) and Bo Holten, should sound more obviously French because of the flavor of the texts, yet Delius' stressed rhythms and leaden accompaniments could just as easily have been English or German settings. Even his moody study, Paris: A Nocturne, seems less about that city and more like an English tone poem describing a place in Delius' exotic imagination, where any specific nationality would be irrelevant. The singing by soprano Henriette Bonde-Hansen is serene and lovely, and the playing by this esteemed Danish orchestra is polished and warm in tone, so there is nothing in the performances to criticize. But the identification of these pieces as French masterworks is somewhat misleading and not essential to their enjoyment.

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