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.