Sleigh Ride (also known as Winter Night) is one of Three Small Tone Poems by the late Romantic English composer, Delius (1862-1934). The other two movements in the collection – Spring Morning and Summer Evening – probably indicates that Delius had planned, though probably never completed, his own ‘Four Seasons’.
The then 25 year old Delius may well have played a piano solo version of the piece (then entitled Norwegian Sleigh Ride) at a Christmas Eve party in 1887 to Grieg had invited him. Although Delius went on to orchestrate the work its first performance didn’t take place until 1947 – well over a decade after Delius’ death. The score had been unearthed, along with other unpublished manuscripts, by Sir Thomas Beecham – a lifelong devotee of Delius’ works.
Much of Delius’ music reflects his love of nature and this gentle, lyrical work, with its atmospheric musical portrayal of a snowy, moonlit sleigh ride, is certainly no exception.
In this arrangement for wind quintet the horn player also doubles on the sleigh bells, which must be worn on the ankle(s)! All good Christmas fun!!