> DELIUS Sea Drift etc Hickox/Marriner [RB]: Classical Reviews- May2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934)
Sea Drift
A Song Before Sunrise

La Calinda from the opera Koanga
John Shirley-Quirk (bar)
London Symphony Chorus
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Richard Hickox
Academy of St Martin in the Fields/Neville Marriner
Rec 1977, 1981, ADD DDD
ELOQUENCE DECCA 467 601-2 [76.30]


This is a good low-budget Delius disc with two substantial works contrasted with two of Delius's myriad of short works.

Marriner's Delius is pretty assertive and is certainly not of the languid sighing school. A Song before Sunrise is quick and refreshing. It is after all a song before sunrise. In Marriner's case it is just before dawn with the first eruption of life very much in evidence. Listen to those imperious cuckoo calls! La Calinda is light on its feet with the tambourine magically present yet distant. There is a hint of crowded tone at climaxes but some breathtaking trumpetry at 2.02. Marriner is excellent at catching the shiver in this light-footed dance. I was very taken with Marriner's Delius. After a rather disappointing late-1990s Philips CD of November Woods (Bax) and Enter Spring (Bridge) this surprised me. Time for a reassessment.

The two major Delius works are piloted by Hickox before he came under contract with Chandos yet well after his earliest efforts (the Rubbra Masses for RCA). Sea Drift has substantial parts for choir and soloist. The misty choral tone is perhaps a calculated or inculcated choice but Whitman's words are hazed as well. You can't have everything! The misty delivery helps with some of the most dramatic moments with clearly enunciated words welling up out of the misty backdrop. John Shirley-Quirk, then nearing the end of his recording career, noticeably warms up as the piece progresses, becoming more animated in his portrayal of emotion. Appalachia goes well though not as sensitively as Barbirolli, Mackerras or Beecham (his final Sony/CBS version). Hickox's insights into this work see the grandeur. He is not so well attuned to the yielding poetry of the piece or at least not to the same extent as some other interpreters.

This disc has a big sound (especially true of the two Hickox items) benefiting from playing on a major hi-fi setup. All in all an excellent presentation. Full texts provided. Notes are in English only. Christopher Palmer's notes on the two major items are taken direct from the original LP. No commentary on the Marriner items. A pity that the disc lacks details of locations and exact dates of recording sessions.

Rob Barnett


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