Delius: The Complete Delius Songbook, Vol. 1

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Delius
LABELS: Stone Records
WORKS: The Complete Delius Songbook, Vol. 1: English and Norwegian songs
PERFORMER: Mark Stone (baritone), Stephen Barlow (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 5060192780062

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With the 150th anniversary of the composer’s birth looming next year, the flow of new Delius recordings seems to be accelerating. This is the first in a two-disc set that will, for the first time, cover his entire output of solo songs. It includes two sets, and some single numbers, of Norwegian poems (perhaps originally set in German translation, and all sung here in English versions), interspersed with English settings. A few of the latter, in particular, are rather empty. But most bear Delius’s unmistakable fingerprints: expressive melodic lines, sometimes ardent and sometimes poignant; sliding chromatic harmonies; and nature-painting.

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Mark Stone is full and strong across his whole range, if lacking in variety. His diction is a model of clarity. Stephen Barlow partners him capably and sympathetically, though some of Delius’s more complex pianistic effects would have benefited from a less close-up recording. There are full notes by Stone himself on both words and music. By way of competition, there’s a useful single-disc selection on Hyperion, though not everyone will warm to Yvonne Kenny’s fluttery vibrato. But lovers of Delius’s music should snap up this disc. Anthony Burton