Delius: Danish Songs; Life’s Dance

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

LABELS: Danacord
WORKS: Danish Songs; Life’s Dance
PERFORMER: Henriette Bonde-Hansen (soprano), Johan Reuter (baritone); Danish National Opera Chorus, Aarhus Chamber Choir, Aarhus SO/Bo Holten
This CD brings together Delius’s works on Danish texts, in many cases for the first time in the original language, though En arabesk was recorded by Beecham in the Fifties. That was let down by the dry voice of the soloist, and Reuter is an improvement, but he still hasn’t the sheer sensuality and variety of colour that the piece demands. When he returns later for the Two Songs, and especially in the more declamatory ‘Sakuntala’, he is much better suited to the music. In the other songs, Bonde-Hansen is altogether nearer the mark, especially in her tuning, so crucial in the winding chromaticism that often characterises the melodies and harmonies. She also has a more varied voice than Reuter, and a better legato, though again she lacks that last ounce of voluptuousness which songs like ‘Summer Nights’ or ‘In the Seraglio Garden’ cry out for. And it may be non-PC to say so, but most of the texts would sit more comfortably with a male singer. Bo Holten (who also orchestrated the Five Songs) gets sensitive orchestral playing in the vocal items, and even makes a case for the sprawling Life’s Dance. Delius fans shouldn’t hesitate: others might wait for something better to turn up. Martin Cotton