On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring
On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring is a tone poem composed in 1912 by Frederick Delius; it was first performed in Leipzig on 23 October 1913. It is the first of Two Pieces for Small Orchestra, the second piece being Summer Night on the River, although these have for many years existed separately on recordings and in the concert hall.
The piece opens with a slow three-bar sequence; its first theme is an exchange of cuckoo calls, first for oboe, then for divided strings. The second theme is scored for first violins, and is taken from a Norwegian folk song, "In Ola Valley", which was brought to his attention by the Australian composer and folk-song arranger Percy Grainger. (The theme was also arranged by Edvard Grieg in his 19 Norwegian Folksongs, Op. 66.) The clarinet returns with the cuckoo calls before the piece ends in pastoral fashion.