Delius: Fennimore and Gerda

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Delius
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Fennimore and Gerda
PERFORMER: Randi Stene, Judith Howarth, Peter Coleman-Wright, Mark Tucker; Danish National RSO & Choir/Richard Hickox
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9589
Fennimore and Gerda was the last of Delius’s six operas, completed in 1913 and premiered in Frankfurt in 1919. Fennimore and Gerda were the two women in the life of Niels Lyhne, the subject of the opera’s source, a novel by the Danish writer Jens Peter Jacobsen (also author of a very different work, Gurrelieder). Fennimore chooses to wed Niels’s cousin Erik, before realising she has married the wrong man – but on Erik’s death, she turns Niels away once again. In the two-scene epilogue Niels finds happiness with Gerda.

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This is only the second recording of the opera, and surprisingly uses similar Danish forces to the Meredith Davies 1976 EMI version. That account had a cast led by Elisabeth Söderström (in both title roles), Brian Rayner Cook and Robert Tear, but I prefer the newcomers. Stene, in particular, is an intensely moving Fennimore, and Coleman-Wright an ardent Niels. Hickox conducts with fervour and the Chandos recording is warmer and fuller than its rival. Another advantage is the use of the original German libretto (EMI uses Philip Heseltine’s dated English translation). Matthew Rye