DELIUS Orchestral Works Volume
First Cuckoo*; Summer Night on the River*; Eventyr; Paris;
excerpts from Koanga and Hassan
Beecham with London
Philharmonic and Royal Philharmonic* orchestras, London Select Choir
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Having frequently heard Sir Thomas Beecham in his later years give inimitable
accounts of Delius, and having known these performances on 78s & LPs,
it is a pleasure to welcome their Naxos refurbishment for a fiver and a penny
change - superb value in 2000. Delius believed no-one else could perform
his music properly, and it was only bureaucratic muddle by the French customs
authorities that prevented him hearing test pressings of these 1934 recordings
made shortly before his death. I was brought up in the belief that there
was some indefinable secret, which made other conductors' attempts a travesty.
These performances, heard again, certainly evoke feelings that Beecham did
indeed bring something special to this music, which he championed until the
end of his life. The two small pieces for orchestra date from 1927 and are
played by the seasonal orchestra of the Royal Philharmonic Society. It is
lovely to hear this first recording of the ever popular Cuckoo.
Beecham's funding and founding of the London Philharmonic Orchestra in 1932
created a major sensation, with standards hitherto unknown in Britain. Most
of the performances here date from their early recordings together in 1934,
produced by the young Walter Legge, with the finest players amongst London's
free-lancers, including always Leon Goossens (oboe) and Paul Beard (violin
soloist in the Hassan Serenade - Beard was the LPO leader till 1936,
subsequently leader of the BBC Symphony Orchestra for very many years).
This CD is of far more than historical interest and it seems unfortunate
that it seems to be narrowly aimed at older music-lovers. There is a useful
history of the recordings themselves, provided by Lyndon Jenkins, Chairman
of the Delius Society, but nothing about the music itself for newcomers to
Delius. They could very well be advised to start right here with this CD.
Readers of MotW can, of course, turn to the
pages for more background.
Since Naxos sees no need for programme notes, and even leaves the last of
its meagre three pages half empty, why should I do their work for them? But
I cannot resist one note about Eventyr (Once upon a time). At two
points there are some slightly inhibited shouts, supplied by members of the
London Philharmonic Orchestra. We were a little shocked. Orchestral musicians
required to shout! Whatever next?
The quality of the transfers (by David Lennick with Graham Newton) sounds
excellent, with judicious noise reduction but retention of good string tone
and Goossen's unique oboe timbre easily recognisable.
Collectors of state-of-the-art, up to the minute stereo CDs should all be
advised to add some important historical performances to their collections.
This could be a good choice to begin with, its pleasures going far beyond
the nostalgic. They can become addictive!
But a final word. Do not pass by any opportunity to acquire a real collectors'
item - the EMI World Records Retrospect LPs c.1975, a wonderful and (as I
remember) inexpensive reissue with comprehensive notes and texts of the vocal
works, of course, together with the bonus of Beecham's 225 page book
Frederick Delius tucked into a special slot in the box. Mine
is in mint condition, and I treasure it. Where does that leave the progress
upon which we are all so proud to congratulate (or delude?) ourselves.
Peter Grahame Woolf