Delius: Eventyr; Five Songs from the Norwegian; Sleigh Ride; The Song of the High Hills

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Danacord
WORKS: Eventyr; Five Songs from the Norwegian; Sleigh Ride; The Song of the High Hills
PERFORMER: Henriette Bonde-Hansen, Helle Høyer Hansen (soprano), John Kjøller (tenor); Aarhus University Choir, Hummerkoret, Aarhus Chamber Choir, Aarhus SO/Bo Holten
New recordings of Delius are relatively thin on the ground, and interest in him on the continent and even in Scandinavia is pretty slender if concert programmes and radio schedules are anything to go by. And so this disc from Denmark is to be much welcomed. Delius’s love of Norway was lifelong and he regarded the country as his spiritual home. The Five Songs from the Norwegian come from 1888, the year after Delius had first met Grieg, and their musical accents are much indebted to the Norwegian master. (They were set in German translation, though Delius spoke decent Norwegian by this time.) He had played his Sleigh Ride at the Griegs’ bibulous Christmas party the year before, scoring it only two years later. Both The Song of the High Hills and Eventyr – the latter means a Norwegian folktale, not a specific tale but an evocation of their spirit, in much the same way as Sibelius did in En saga – are Delius at his finest. The Song of the High Hills perhaps enshrines his feeling for Norway more completely than anything else. Bo Holten has a good feeling for the composer; his Eventyr is full blooded and his scoring of the Grieg-like songs is mostly skilful and idiomatic. The recording is fairly analytical with not quite enough space around the sound for such atmospheric music. Robert Layton