Frederick Delius

Sonata for cello and piano, RT viii/7

    Description by Adrian Corleonis

    The onset of the Great War in August 1914 was met with surprisingly sanguinary responses and a general expectation that conflict would be bracing but brief. For others -- Delius' friend Percy Grainger among them -- the war was embraced as a godsend, sweeping away a stagnant and overly prolonged era. But with the German advance on the Marne, matters were taking a grim turn. "Take my advice, don't remain in Grez," Grainger wrote the Deliuses on August 30. After weeks of vacillation, they accepted Beecham's invitation to come to England where he put them up at Watford, his country estate. On a trip to Manchester with Beecham to hear orchestral excerpts from A Village Romeo and Juliet, Delius was whelmed with enthusiasm for the playing of Beatrice and May Harrison in Brahms' Double Concerto for Violin and Cello. Effecting an introduction to the sisters immediately after the concert, Delius proposed composing a double concert of his own for them, beginning an association with the richly talented Harrison family that would last until his death. The concerto was begun the following year and completed in 1916, though not performed until after the war, on February 21, 1920. The Violin Concerto followed in 1916, and a Cello Concerto was composed in 1921. Delius' initial infatuation with the Harrison sisters also prompted the composition of the Cello Sonata in 1916, which, with the Elegy and Caprice for cello and chamber orchestra, dictated to Eric Fenby by the now blind and paralyzed composer in 1930, is dedicated to Beatrice Harrison. Delius' use of the terms sonata and concerto are quite loose -- disingenuous, even -- and have little connection with their formal properties, meaning, rather, extended non-programmatic pieces for solo instrument with accompaniment. Fenby noted that "...Delius was drawn in later years to the problem of developing lyrical line in terms of extended melody. His flights of melodic prose, notably in the Sonata for Cello and Piano...aspire to a long-spanned freedom of phrase rare in British music." The sonata, in a single movement playing around 15 minutes, and in the nature of an ongoing development, including a brief set of variations, and rounded with reminiscences of the opening, is undone through a lack of memorable melody. However dimpled with nuance by a sympathetic performer to abound in ravishing moments, these are unsustained and in the aggregate sum up to a prolonged longueur. The Wigmore Hall premiere was given by Beatrice on January 11, 1919, accompanied by Hamilton Harty.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2015 Continuum CUU 1025
    2013 Decca
    2013 SOMM 251
    2012 Chandos CHAN 10741
    2012 Nimbus / Nimbus Records NI 5884
    2012 Decca
    2011 Decca 4783078
    2010 Naxos 8572208
    2003 Warner Classics
    2000 EMI Music Distribution 573992
    1998 Philips 454 458-2PH
    1995 Unicorn-Kanchana UKCD2074
    1994 Symposium 1140
    1993 Pearl 9981
    1992 Chandos 8499
    Continuum 1025
    EMI Music Distribution 55399