DELIUS in Norway” – Norwegian Bridal Procession; Paa Vidderne; Two Songs from the Norwegian; Sleigh Ride; Folkeraadet; On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring; Eventyr – Ann-Helen Moen, sop. (on 2 Songs)/ Bergen Philharmonic Orch./Sir Andrew Davis – Chandos multichannel SACD CHSA 5131, 78:32 (1/28/14) [Distr. by Naxos] *****: 

Although he lived much of his life in France (and two years in Florida), his parents were of Dutch origin, and he is regarded as a British composer, Frederick Delius considered Norway his spiritual home, so the concept of this album is a good one. When he was sent on business to Sweden he came under the influence of Grieg and Ibsen, in addition to his studies in Germany making him a follower of Wagner.

However, French music and especially Debussy gave Delius a sense of direction. Both composers were inspired by Grieg, both admired Chopin, they both liked to depict the sea musically, and both used wordless voices in their works. But Norway inspired numerous Delius works, both when he was seeking his own voice as a composer and in later maturity.

Eventyr is literally translated as “Tales of Adventure,” and comes from Norwegian folk tales. It is one of the few orchestral works requiring the orchestra members to shout out at one point (another is Piston’s Incredible Flutist). Folkeraadet is the lengthiest work on the disc, and not at all well-known. It was incidental music for a satirical comedy lampooning Norwegian politics. Its use of phrases from the Norwegian national anthem caused an uproar when the music was premiered. There is also quotation of a Norwegian folk song published by Grieg. Paa Vidderne “On the Mountains” is another little-known Norwegian-influenced Delius work on the program. He was inspired by an Ibsen poem, and followed general sonata form in his symphonic poem. Of course Sleigh Ride is a long-time pops concert favorite.

On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring is one of the composer’s loveliest works. It is appreciated even by critics who claim Delius’ music lacks form and melody. It was the very first Delius selection to be recorded by Sir Thomas Beecham in the 1920s, who became the strongest supporter and performer of the composer’s music. It was heard on the air by chance by the young Eric Fenby in 1928, and stimulated him to write to Delius to offer the sickly elderly composer his assistance as his amanuensis. The way the piece is appropriate for this collection is that it includes a Norwegian folk song which Percy Grainger had heard in a Grieg choral work, which he referred to Delius.

The hi-res surround sonics are fully up to Chandos’ fine reputation, and the performances by the Bergen Philharmonic are first rate.  It’s most welcome to get such lengthy programs nowadays on classical SACDs and CDs. Some are as much as 83 minutes!

—John Sunier