Beecham recorded the 1891 symphonic poem Paa Vidderne (On the mountains - or perhaps better still, On the heights), though it is currently unavailable, but the 40-minute melodrama Delius composed in 1888 to accompany the declamation of Ibsen's poem is a great rarity and a first recording. Although he spoke good Norwegian by this time, Delius set it in a German translation, but it was never performed until its premiere in 1983 on Norwegian TV. It is given here in Lionel Carley's expert English translation from the Ibsen original. The Songs from the Norwegian are also given in English. As usual with early Delius, the mantle of Grieg sits heavily on his shoulders but there is much that only Delius could have written. The opening of the third tableau is just one example, but there is much else that is highly individual and imaginative. The medium is unsatisfactory, the narrator having to assert and project over the orchestral texture (Grieg's warnings as to the pitfalls of the genre were not misplaced). All the same, the piece is unfailingly interesting and often moving. Douglas Bostock reinforces the positive impression he made in the two Nielsen symphonies I reviewed in these pages a year or so ago. He is, I suspect, a major conducting talent: he gets a vitally fresh response from his players, every detail is beautifully shaped, and the atmosphere casts a strong spell.
© BBC Music Magazine 2001