Frederick Delius

Pieces (2) for small orchestra, RT vi/19

    Description by "Blue" Gene Tyranny

    The Two Pieces for small orchestra are exquisite tone poems depicting two adjacent seasons. They were written after Delius completed his last opera, Fennimore and Gerda, which demonstrated the shift to his later style of composition. These two works, however, also look back to his earlier, very personal style. Both are scored for a reduced orchestra of flute, oboe, two clarinets, two bassoons, two horns, and strings.

    "On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring" (1912) opens on a beautiful sustained major seventh chord followed by the oboe introducing a pastoral bird-like pattern. Then "with easy flowing movement," a song in triple meter is introduced in the strings with drones in the cellos and basses. The simple, sweet, pastoral, modal melody is harmonized by Delius with chromatic passing tones that at times give the impression of bitonality when set against the lower harmonic roots. The melody is built in cumulative phrases, until the oboe has learned the whole tune and now steps forward as a solo underscored by lovely strings. The clarinet then comes forward with an authentic "cuckoo" call. The middle section of the tune is developed as the "cuckoo" clarinet enters at several points. The strings create a small looping pattern just before the ending, and manifest some simple yet rich new harmonies. A major chord dies away to silence. The piece is based on the Norwegian folk song "In Ola Valley, in Ola Dale," and is, to some extent, a transcription of Edvard Grieg's own treatment of the piece in his Norwegian Folksongs for piano, Op. 66.

    "Summer-night on the river" (1911), one of the few thoroughly impressionist pieces by this composer, opens with gently sighing winds, over a droning pedal point in the muted double basses, and sustained horn notes. The string section enters, their muted sound creating a rich yet somber timbre. There is the beginning of a sea-faring melody but it quickly transforms into undulating figures and trills that perfectly describe a flowing river. A solo cello sings out with a lyrical theme, which is taken over by a solo violin, soon joined by a solo viola, all surrounded by the flowing patterns. The solo violin melody becomes "softer and softer as if dying away in the distance." There is a mystical and atmospheric coda with trilling chromatics in the solo violin, supported by sustained and pizzicato strings. The river in question is the Loing, upon which the wildly blossoming garden of Delius' villa, in the French village of Grez, near Fontainebleau, faced; this distilled tone poem -- playing between six and seven minutes -- is the upshot of many meditative hours spent there.

    Parts/Movements

    1. On Hearing the first Cuckoo in Spring
    2. Summer Night on the River

    Appears On

    Year Title / Performer Label / Catalog # AllMusic Rating
    2011
    EMI Classics / Warner Classics
    5099909465429
    2011
    Hallé
    CDHLD 7532
    2010
    Sony Classical
    88697707282
    2008
    Various Artists
    Naxos
    8 556837
    2007
    Various Artists
    Chandos
    CHAN241-37
    2007
    BIS
    1589
    2006
    Hallé
    7512
    2004
    Naxos
    8557143
    2004
    Chandos
    10174
    2003
    Naxos
    8503148
    2001
    EMI Music Distribution
    67553
    2001
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4395292
    2000
    Naxos
    110904
    1999
    CBC Records
    5134
    1999
    EMI Music Distribution
    73420
    1998
    Dutton Laboratories
    7028
    1997
    Dutton Laboratories
    2503
    1997
    Dutton Laboratories
    7011
    1997
    London
    452 707-2DF2
    1996
    Collins Records
    13362
    1994
    EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics
    565119-2
    1993
    EMI Music Distribution
    4304
    1993
    Teldec
    90845
    1993
    ASV
    6070
    1992
    Chandos
    8330
    1990
    EMI Music Distribution
    47509
    1989
    EMI Music Distribution
    55228
    Medici/Whitehall
    4002
    EMI Music Distribution
    65067
    EMI Music Distribution
    47610
    Beecham Edition
    3
    Teldec
    89084
    Sanctuary Records
    3049