Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Frederick DELIUS
Over the Hills and Far Away
Sea Drift
Paris - Song of a Great City

Bruce Boyce (bar)
BBC Chorus/Leslie Woodgate
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra /Sir Thomas Beecham
rec 7 Feb 1950 (Over the Hills); Aug 1955 (Paris); 23 April, 2-3 Dec 1954 (Sea Drift).
SONY CLASSICAL SMK89430 [61.03] Midprice
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Beecham working with the RPO captures in that characteristically warm modern sound the sunny restless restfulness of Delius.

These are prized recordings and are not new to CD. CBS (in one case just before Sony's appearance on the scene) put out three disks in disparate series. Masterworks Portrait gave us Hassan, with Sea Drift and Arabesque on MPK 47680 in 1991. Sony British Pageant in 1993 gave us Over the Hills, North Country Sketches, Eventyr and Koanga's Closing Scene on SMK58934. This came out on a 1993 Sony Essential Classics with Berners and Arnell.

I am not at all sure that I prefer Beecham's Paris over Mackerras's on CD-EMX 2185 but it is a sensitive account of a work which has more than its fair share of nodding moments. Things are quite different in Sea Drift where everyone seems equal to the demands of the score and where Boyce can be relied on to touch the wellspings of tears in this affecting Whitman hymn to loneliness and bereft joys. Over the Hills written in the wake of a thoroughly violent Norwegian storm is an evocation of the faerylands of childhood.

If you want to capture the Delius Beecham alchemy in sound better than the Naxos 1930s recordings this is where to go. How tragic that Beecham did not record Song of the High Hills in the 1950s sessions.

Good notes and design points. A bit short on playing time at under an hour but the performances are distilled enchantment.

Rob Barnett

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