Frederick Delius: The Walk to the Paradise Garden
The Walk to Paradise Garden wasn’t actually a part of Delius’ initial set up of the opera and it was only added in before the Berlin premiere in 1906 (with the first every premiere being in 1901). The piece is between scenes 5 and 6 and is essentially an extended scene change, however, it has become much more than that as it is now known as one of Delius’ most impressive orchestral works. The piece brings together themes from the previous 5 scenes and it creates an absolutely wonderful demonstration of thematic development and fruition.
The piece starts with a horn and bassoon, who introduce a lovely, warm theme which is soon passed around to the oboe and English horn throughout this work. I really enjoy the laid-back feeling of this theme and how relaxing it is. This theme is manipulated and developed throughout the orchestra and it does seem that the winds take a more prominent place within some of these sections. The opera’s ‘love theme’ is emphasised a lot within the more climactic sections of the work, especially after the first climatic section involving upper strings and winds. A colour B Major interlude is heard and this represents the couple finding that swift moment of peace within nature. Its an incredibly moving piece of music which radiates such wonderful colour in coherence with nature and finding oneself through spiritual means.
So from the initial theme at the beginning, you can hear the winds and brass taking a more solo approach to the thematic development. The timbre between the lower strings and the winds blends so well and creates such a calming atmosphere. An extended oboe solo is heard, which again is this first theme. The clarinet and bassoon then take this over, with a rich string accompaniment. From this point the upper strings take a more prominent place and start becoming more involved with the thematic development.
The timpani roll encourages and teases the strings into a beautiful crescendo of sound, which culminates in a much thicker orchestration and higher registers being played by the flute and oboes. The climatic section is just heart-wrenching and the upper register played by the strings is just so good! The texture thins slightly after this point and the oboe and flute take the theme over once more.
A call and response technique is used between the strings and upper winds, which grounds this developed theme more into the fabric of the piece. I really like the way Delius goes between the different woodwind instruments to create different timbres with the same/similar theme, it very much creates a soothing, complex but still interesting piece of music.
The flute then brings us into the next section, with the woodwinds and horns being at the forefront and bringing the tempo and feeling down to a lower level. A beautiful flute solo is heard, which is shadowed by the violin and oboe. As far as I am aware this section is a real highlight between the two points that the couple are walking between (the fairground and a mountain inn).
Following this you can hear another climatic section fast approaching, with the upper strings leading this section. The trumpets enter, which of course makes it all the more brilliant (not bias at all!). This section is so luscious and flowing that you cannot dislike it! Again the climax is brought back down and a wonderful harp progression, twinned with a calm (ha!) trumpet is heard and it makes the atmosphere all the more sweet and calming.
The music thus starts dying away very slowly, with the tempo ceasing somewhat and the themes being repeated as a kind of farewell from the woodwinds. The piece ends very softly and trails off into silence, which represents the couple returning to their lives, which eventually ends with their union in death.
Ⓒ Alex Burns