David Lloyd-Jones: Delius Hiawatha Tone Poem, BBC Concert Orchestra

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I. Tranquillo - allegretto (1/2)

II. Allegretto con moto (2/2)

A beautiful tone poem by Frederick Delius, composed in 1888. Delius was more of a musical painter, rather than an architect. He was mostly influenced by Wagner, Debussy, Greig, and Strauss.

Performance by the BBC Concert Orchestra, conducted by David Lloyd-Jones
Painting: Among the Sierra Nevadas by Albert Bierstadt

Linear Notes by Robert Threlfall:

This well-chosen selection of less familiar music by Frederick Delius should be received by many as a welcome alternative to further repetitions of Cuckoo, Walk and Brigg Fair. Not only does it almost completely span the composer's working life, but four of these five works are evidently devoid of any background other than a purely musical one; the remaining item takes its present place for the first time in complete performance and recording.

If not his very first orchestral score, Hiawatha may well be numbered second in that extensive series and, like its predecessor the suite Florida, was written in Leipzig after the composer's two-year sojourn in America. It should be noted right away that its description -- a tone poem after Longfellow's famous poem -- is of particular interest in view of its date, which precedes the start of Richard Strauss's famous series of tone poems. Delius later copied twelve lines from the introduction of Longfellow's 'The Song of Hiawatha' on to his title page -- to set the scene, as it were. He also placed further excerpts above various later sections of his score, but subsequently vigorously erased all of them except the last two (which appropriately quote from 'Hiawatha's Departure' over the closing pages). Maybe he had come to wish his music to be taken on its own terms. At some later stage he also removed groups of pages from two sections of his bound manuscript; it is not known why, nor is it known if he ever produced any rewritten pages in substitution. The work has thus remained unplayable as a whole until, with the support of the Delius Trust, the present writer recently managed to `close the gaps' by using material entirely taken from Delius's own score. If the result is somewhat shorter overall than Delius's original scheme, it may indeed be that his intention had been to compress the argument by eliminating some of the more repetitive earlier matter. Thus it became possible for Hiawatha to be published by Boosey & Hawkes in 2008 and now performed for the first time.

Hiawatha starts with a calm depiction of nature, doubtless in early morning, followed by a gradual build-up to what is obviously the main Hiawatha theme. As the climax subsides, birdcalls are heard in the woodwind, and a second melody is introduced which could depict Minnehaha, and which Delius evidently valued sufficiently to use in enhanced form in his later orchestral nocturne, Paris. Again a climax is built-up, after which the two principal melodies are combined; a diminuendo then leads to a short pause. Next, again as in the first movement of Florida, a dance section commences which presumably refers to Hiawatha's wedding feast. This gradually increases in brilliance and vigour to an even bigger climax, which is cut off suddenly to allow a completely contrasted section to unwind, possibly referring to Hiawatha's happy life with Minnehaha. During this, elaborate string scoring and soft brass harmonies support a long-drawn oboe solo, which merges into a short reminiscence of the various earlier melodies. Sudden timpani strokes in broken rhythm are followed by an anguished section starting with high string tremolandi (death of Minnehaha?), which leads to the final setting of the Hiawatha motive as the hero takes his farewell into the setting sun against a rippling string background depicting the rivers and lakes.