Delius: Double Concerto; Violin Concerto / Davis, Little, Watkins, BBC Symphony Orchestra
Those looking for grandiose concertos with mighty perorations and sizzling soloist virtuosity should look elsewhere. This is for committed Delians happy to indulge in another sort of less demonstrative beauty. This concerto music, lyrical and sultry, invites you to step into Delius’s garden of delights for an hour or so on an imaginary warm sultry afternoon; insects and butterflies flitting amongst the flowers nodding in the breeze, birds fluttering and singing, fountains and streams quietly animated - to doze and dream.
Delius’s Double Concerto was premiered on 21 February 1920 with May and Beatrice Harrison (its dedicatees) and the New Queen’s Hall Orchestra under the baton of Sir Henry Wood. Work had begun on the Concerto in 1915 when Delius was in England - the composer was temporarily exiled from his home in Grez-sur-Loing because of the Great War hostilities. During the composition of the Concerto, Delius had the support and advice of the Harrison sisters.
The classical repertory includes surprisingly few concertos for violin and cello. The Brahms work - too infrequently performed - springs to mind and indeed the very first bars of Delius’s lovely Concerto sound quite Brahmsian. Immediately after, however we are in unmistakeable Delius territory. Tasmin Little and Paul Watkins, so sympathetic to Delius’s idiom, blend beautifully in this lovely Concerto of restrained flamboyance, beguiling lyricism and a stateliness at once ageless and then distantly Elgarian. There is one heartfelt idea that recalls something of the American spiritual and Delius’s early Florida experiences.
Delius’s Violin Concerto, ‘For Albert Sammons’, followed quickly on the heels of the Double Concerto. It was written in 1916 but its premiere was also delayed by the War until 30 January 1919 with Adrian Boult conducting the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Like the Double Concerto it is cast in one movement. Tasmin Little is a dedicated Delian and has undertaken some interesting research into his life especially the composer’s early days in Florida. She thus brings an especially committed and understanding ‘voice’ to the Violin Concerto. Her reading is heartfelt and how exquisitely she phrases that lovely tender main theme.
Delius regarded his Cello Concerto as his personal favourite. It was Beatrice Harrison who persuaded him to write it for her. It was to be the last work he was able to complete in his own hand before that devastating illness overtook him. Beatrice Harrison gave the British premiere in July 1923 and the Concerto was also heard in Vienna and New York in the early 1920s. Delius’s writing for the cello soloist was thought to be too ’difficult’ so much so that Herbert Withers, a renowned cellist of that time effected a few modifications to make it ‘more playable’. For this recording Paul Watkins sought, for the most part, to return to Delius’s writing. Watkins, writing in the album’s booklet notes says, “... the composer suggests very few phrase marks or bowings ....’Play it as you feel it, and I shall be content,’ was the composer’s advice to an early interpreter of the Cello Concerto. I have tried to honour the spirit of these encouraging words.’ This Concerto is very much in the spirit of the other two concertos on this CD and it is distinguished with yet another beguiling broad melody. It ends as Beatrice Harrison suggested in “... the after-glow of the sun sinking ... the stars emerging and fainting away as the moon rises.”
Sir Andrew Davis draws captivatingly poetic support from the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
Spellbinding performances of three concertos of languid beauty.
-- Ian Lace, MusicWeb International
Catalog Number: CHSA 5094
Composer: Frederick Delius
Conductor: Sir Andrew Davis
Orchestra/Ensemble: BBC Symphony Orchestra
Performer: Paul Watkins, Tasmin Little