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Delius: Orchestral Music Music for 2 Pianos, Vol. 1

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Frederick Delius

Simon Callaghan
& Hiroaki Takenouchi, pianos.

This year marks the 150th Anniversary of the birth of Frederick Delius and SOMM joins his many admirers in paying tribute to a composer who had a very special place in the history of twentieth-century music. Our first volume of Delius’s orchestral music transcribed for two pianos provides us with a fresh and enjoyable slant on music which we most of us know and love.

We in England have been jealously possessive of the fact that Delius was born in this country, which would automatically label him as a “British” composer. In fact Delius had no home and was by nature rootless and a wanderer. He was born in Bradford, Yorkshire  of naturalised German immigrants, and aged 22 he lived and worked for a short while in Jacksonville Florida where he fell in love with negro spirituals and the sound of negro voices singing in chorus, his first powerful source of inspiration.

At the age of 24 Delius travelled to Germany where he entered the Leipsig Conservatoire. Germany was then a major musical centre with Nikisch and Mahler conducting at the Opera House and Brahms and Tchaikovsky conducting their own works at the Gewandhaus. It was at this point when he met Edvard Grieg who recognised Delius’s talent and who, in turn, was destined to be an important influence on Delius’s musical development. After Germany followed Paris where Delius embarked on a productive full-time career before moving to Grez-sur-Loing near Fontainebleau  with his wife, painter Jelka Rosen where he lived for the rest of his life until he died in 1934. He was buried in  Limpsfield, England in 1935, next to the grave of his close friend and supporter, Sir Thomas Beecham.

Delius was a complete rebel who flouted convention. He  held academic respectability in utter contempt and adapted the technique of composition to his own ends, relying on instinct and technical knowledge. It no doubt amused him to be described by those who had only a superficial experience of his scores as an amateur or a dilettante but his special brand of genius was recognised by his friends and kindred spirits, Percy Grainger, Philip Heseltine and Eric Fenby, among others. It was they who expertly arranged some of Delius’s orchestral music for two pianos or piano duet.

I knew nothing of these arrangements until I was approached, some months ago, by the Chairman of the Delius Society, Martin Lee-Browne and other important members of the committee of the Society, which included Dr. Lionel Carley, a renowned Delius scholar and author of important books on the composer and his work. The group had  just returned from a “positively electrifying” recital at the Pump Room, Bath, of some of Delius’s orchestral music arranged for  two pianos given by two young pianists, Simon Callaghan and Hiroaki Takenouchi.  They all enthusiastically agreed that these had to be recorded. Would I be interested in recording them for SOMM… and this marked the beginning of an exciting collaboration between the label and the duo team of Simon and Hiro, who have given us these remarkable premiere recordings. Their deeply felt performances do not only transcend the limitations of the instruments. They also allow many more of the inner strands of the orchestral textures to be heard with greater clarity. This first volume will be followed by the release of a second volume later this summer.

Since meeting in 2003 at the Royal College of Music at the recommendation of the late Yonty Solomon, Simon Callaghan and Hiroaki Takenouchi have had a thriving duo partnership during which they have given concerts not only throughout the UK but also in Europe and Japan. Their piano duo recitals have recently included all the works of Delius in arrangements for both piano duet and two pianos, performed at the beautiful Pump Room, Bath.

In addition to their duo partnership the two pianists are in constant demand internationally as soloists and chamber musicians and they have given concerts throughout the UK, Europe, Canada, the US and Japan.

On This Recording

  1. A Dance Rhapsody No. 1: A Dance Rhapsody No. 1 (arr. P. Grainger for 2 pianos)
  2. 2 Pieces for Small Orchestra: 2 Pieces for Small Orchestra: No. 1. On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring (arr. R. Schmidt-Wunstorf for 2 pianos)
  3. Brigg Fair: An English Rhapsody: Brigg Fair: An English Rhapsody (arr. P. Warlock for 2 pianos)
  4. Poem of Life and Love: Poem of Life and Love (arr. E. Fenby and H.B. Gardiner for 2 pianos)
  5. A Song of Summer: A Song of Summer (arr. E. Fenby for 2 pianos)
  6. Koanga, Act II: La Calinda: Koanga, Act II: La Calinda (arr. J. Trimble for 2 pianos)