Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Delius Royal Festival Hall Sunday

Sunday 29th January for Delius at the South Bank, with an important AFTERNOON concert at the Royal Festival Hall, with the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Andrew Davis. Julian Lloyd Webber will play Delius's Cello Concerto, which I always associate with Jacqueline du Pré, though Lloyd Webber loves it dearly and is its current high profile champion. Heavy competition: Ralph Vaughan Williams The Lark Ascending, one of the most sublime pieces of music ever, indescribably alluring. Zsolt-Tihamér Visontay, soloist.

Delius is also up against Edward Elgar, the Enigma Variations with its expansive sweep of invention. Interesting contrast with Delius Brigg Fair - an English Rhapsody. That's based on a fragment of an old folk tune sung by Josph Taylor to Percy Grainger at Brigg in Lincolnshire around 1906. The recording lasts only 30 seconds and is grainy, given that it was recorded live in the field, using the technology of the time. Grainger made an arrangement of it which was a great success. Taylor was taken to London to hear Grainger's version in 1910 and is said to have said, "that's my song?" (For more, read Georgina Boyes The Imagined Village, revised and reissued in 2010).  Delius's Brigg Fair makes no pretensions. It's a lyrical fantasy on the spirit of Englishness, very much in keeping with what he learned from Edvard Grieg and the idea of Norway. 

Whatever Englishness may be, for Delius was thoroughly international. His contact with rural English yokels was limited: quite possibly he was more intimate with black Americans (there's a rumour that he had a mixed race daughter). The painting above was by his German wife Jelka, done in their home in France. But Beecham's passionate promotion created Delius as "English" and that's how we've come to hear him. Delius and Debussy were born the same year, 1862, both  will be having anniversaries. It would be fascinating to hear Delius compared to Debussy. There's a new recording of Delius piano music (Paul Guinery) which will be reviewed here. It's part of a major traverse around Delius rarities by Stone Records. The complete Delius Songbook (piano and voice) is reviewed HERE and HERE.  Me? I'm going to the very important  Lieder recital at the Wigmore Hall at exactly the same time, Sunday, but might find a way to get both concerts covered. Keep reading!

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