The Complete Delius Songbook Vol.2

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Frederick Delius
LABELS: Stone Records
ALBUM TITLE: The Complete Delius Songbook Vol.2
WORKS: Eleven Early Songs; Songs to poems by Paul Verlaine; Four Posthumous Songs; etc
PERFORMER: Mark Stone (baritone), Stephen Barlow (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 5060192780109

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The first of these two discs (reviewed last October) contained Delius’s settings of English and Norwegian texts, the latter in English translations. This one consists of settings of poems from Delius’s ancestral Germany, his adopted France and his beloved Denmark – though again, the Danish texts are sung, sensibly, in English. This versatility already suggests one reason Delius’s songs aren’t better known: how many German or French singers, planning a programme of Lieder or mélodies, would think immediately of Delius?

Yet the languages are set idiomatically, and the best of the songs succeed in encapsulating the mood of their poems: severely philosophical for Nietzsche, gently melancholy for Verlaine, searingly regretful in Jacobsen’s ‘Through long, long years’. This project has clearly been a labour of love for Mark Stone, to judge by his detailed notes on the poems and the songs (with the original Danish texts given in full). He sings strongly, revealing most character in the bass register, and always with exemplary enunciation. Stephen Barlow makes the best of the sometimes awkward piano parts. The recording, too close up on the piano in Volume 1, this time perhaps leaves it slightly in the background. But this issue completes a highly recommendable set.

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Anthony Burton