Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Frederick Delius: A Dance Rhapsody – An Analytical Note

I was delighted to find this short programme note of Delius’s Dance Rhapsody. Further to my postings about Thomas Beecham’s performance of this work in the Free Trade Hall at Manchester it is worthwhile to post it here.

This work was first performed at the Hereford Festival of 1909, having been written the previous year. It is scored for a large modern orchestra, including a heckelphone.  It opens with a short ‘Introduction’ (Lento), in which the cor anglais, bass-oboe (or heckelphone), and horn fore shadow some of the subjects to come. The first of these is given by the oboe in 'easy dance movement'. The second, a brief two-bar phrase for the flute, returns from time to time. The first theme is repeated by clarinet, and the second by cor anglais. These materials are developed by various instruments with much that is charming and original in the scoring and harmonization. A change of tempo to ‘vivo’ (almost twice as quick') brings a fresh theme, introduced by the basses (strings and wind); a second being given later by the violins in octaves. Both these motives are now discussed, oboe and cor anglais dealing with them as solos. A figure presented by the 'cellos and double-basses, and echoed by wood-wind, is afterwards developed and emphasized by trumpets and horns. Further on two of the subjects are worked in combination. A diminuendo and rallentando lead to the recapitulation of the first principal subject, in slower time, by flute and clarinet in octaves, with accompaniment for strings, and afterwards repeated in a more rapid tempo by first violins and violas. This is also treated by other instruments, trumpets included, and a vigorous climax is built up. In a section headed ‘molto adagio’ a solo violin next presents a rhythmically modified version of the subject, accompanied by muted strings only, which are sub-divided. This is followed by quotations of other thematic material by clarinet and bass-oboe. There is now a return to ‘molto vivo’, and the principal theme is given out by the strings with great energy, the brass having an equally vigorous accompaniment. The melodies used strike one as being thoroughly English in character, while their treatment is that of a musician versed in all schools and imitative of none.
Rosa Newmarch  (Minor edits)

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