Frederick Delius

Sonata for violin & piano No. 3, RT viii/10

    Description by Adrian Corleonis

    With the onset of the First World War, Delius embarked upon a more tightly integrated manner, loosely referent to textbook musical processes, with the First Violin Sonata (1914) and pursued with varying success in the Double Concerto for violin and cello, the Violin Concerto, the String Quartet, and the Cello Sonata -- all completed in 1916 -- the Cello Concerto (1921), and the Second and Third violin sonatas (1923 and 1930, respectively). But the designation sonata or concerto should lead no one to believe that they partake of the sonata form preoccupation of the great German tradition. The conception of the violin sonatas -- arguably, with the Violin Concerto and the Cello Sonata, the most successful of these works -- is soaringly lyrical, unfolding in seemingly improvised lines wholly unsuited (as Berlioz's long-limbed melodies are unsuited) to alla tedesca "working out" or development. Instead, Delius proceeds by repetition in other registers and new contexts, shifts of melodic inflection, the expansiveness with which a newly heard melodic flight may cascade into exquisite arabesques, or the sudden generous introduction of new material. While there are occasional moments of dialogue, the violin -- the singing instrument -- is clearly the primus inter pares, leaving the piano to sketch a rapidly shifting chromatic texture, often in the "exquisitely placed melody of chords" that Eric Fenby noted, resourcefully varied broken chord figurations, or melodic fragments that the violin seizes upon and carries aloft. For all their genial dreamery, joyousness, and radiance, the violin sonatas mark the increasing grip of Delius' syphilitic paralysis. Through the period of the First Sonata, Delius was experiencing more frequent and severe periods of illness, entailing increasing stretches of convalescence. The Second Sonata was dictated to his wife while he could still see. By 1930, Delius was blind, paralyzed -- a total invalid in almost constant pain -- and the Third Sonata was dictated to Fenby. In fact, the beguiling tune in 12/8 that opens the second movement was the first music Delius attempted with Fenby. Despite the composer's physical travails and the initial miscommunication between the composer and his young amanuensis, the Third Sonata is the blithest of the three -- "a younger, fresher work than either of the other two," according to its composer, after hearing his favorite interpreter, May Harrison, perform it, accompanied by Fenby on an Easter visit just after its completion. The work is dedicated to her. Harrison, with Arnold Bax, gave the sonata's Wigmore Hall premiere on November 6, 1930, and in 1937 privately recorded it.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Slow
    2. Andante scherzando - Meno mosso
    3. Lento - con moto

    Appears On

    Year Title / Performer Label / Catalog # AllMusic Rating
    2017
    Lyrita
    SRCD 361
    2009
    Naxos
    8572261
    2009
    Sony BMG / Sony Classics
    88697532142
    2009
    Naxos
    8572407
    2007
    Dutton Vocalion
    9768
    2006
    Amon Ra
    2
    2006
    EMI Classics
    2006
    Direct-to-Tape
    9408
    2003
    Warner Classics
    2001
    Boston Records
    1009
    2000
    Connoisseur Society / Insync Music (INSP Media Group)
    4224
    2000
    EMI Music Distribution
    573992
    1997
    Conifer
    51315
    1995
    Dutton Laboratories
    CDAX8014
    1995
    Unicorn-Kanchana
    UKCD2074
    1994
    Symposium
    1075
    1929
    EMI Music Distribution
    70566
    Rca Red Seal
    198708
    Meridian Records
    84298
    EMI Music Distribution
    55399