For a series of comparatively modern recordings you
would do well to consider this non-Beecham selection. It makes even
more sense to consider this with the other Delius single disc from the
DECCA British Music Collection 470 190-2. All the familiar works
are here. But how well has the selection from the Universal archives
worked? Note that these discs derive from Decca and Philips. There is
no sign of a DG contingent but then DG was never a strong Delius contender
despite the German championship Delius was blessed by in the early 1900s.
Decca's Hickox Sea Drift gets better each time
I hear it. The last time was when it was issued with Appalachia
(its original LP coupling from about 1977) on an Australian Eloquence
CD. Here its weighty cradling momentum seems totally compelling and
while John Shirley-Quirk is not as richly toned as say Brian Rayner
Cook or Stephen Savidge he gives an extremely fine performance. In terms
of recorded sound Hickox was served even better by Chandos in his early
1990s re-recording with Songs of Sunset and Songs of Farewell.
Beecham is in a class of his own but if you hanker for a change from
the Beecham orthodoxy then this recording will suit you very well.
At the same time you will be able to sample the interpretations
of Anthony Collins. Collins’ Sibelius symphonies on Beulah (deleted
but still well worth finding) are very highly regarded. His Delius is
not quite in the same league though he does have new and useful things
to tell us. For example he finds more cackling grand Guignol in Paris
than I recall from others. His In a Summer Garden has a good
steady pulse (6.25). The two Summer poems and Delius's famous
Paradise-wards Walk all have their merits and nothing
is out of place. However the sound is getting pretty antique now. Let's
remember that these recordings were the Delius staple of the Decca budget
Eclipse LPs (mono and electronically-fangled stereo) in the early 1970s!
The sound is at its nadir in Paris. It is not a patch on the
Decca-Sibelius-Kingsway tapes made at about the same time.
Shortly after these sessions Collins moved to Hollywood
and film scores and composition. Will we never hear anything of his
apart from Vanity Fair? There are two symphonies for strings
which I expect to be well worth everyone's trouble.
After almost an hour of early 1950s sound it is like
opening the windows on a summer morning to hear Lloyd Webber and Forsberg
(always powerful and alive with considered insights as we also recently
found in his Nystroem/Hellekant song recital on Big Ben). Delius's sonata
is shapely and full of soulful song. Lloyd Webber has, I believe, recorded
this before, for Unicorn, but this Philips version is fine in its own
right with all the grandeur of a sunrise in broadest splendour in the
final moments. This is one of the Delius works to play sight unseen
to those who claim to be allergic to Delius. It should win converts.
It is very unfortunate that in compiling this twofer
Decca did not draw off more (or indeed all) from the Welsh National
Opera orchestral sessions run for Decca by Charles Mackerras in the
1990s. We are treated to a strong Song of the High Hills from
that series (a useful supplement to the Fenby Unicorn recording) and
in the companion disc the WNO/Mackerras are joined by Tasmin Little
in the Violin Concerto. We could have done with more Mackerras and less
Collins. A major work and one of my 'Desert Island' choices in the Delius
Marriner's line-up of five brevities makes me regret
all the more that the sort of augmentation the ASMIF enjoyed for the
Walton film music series (Chandos) was not applied to create a Delius
orchestral cycle. Marriner really is a surprisingly sensitive Delian
and here confounds expectations based on his recentish English music
recital for Philips (Bax November Woods and Bridge Enter Spring
- among others). Some ripely pert trumpet work (3.02) in La Calinda
typifies Marriner's Delian gold.
Only relevant to Sea Drift (vocalisation only
in Song of the High Hills) but no sung texts are provided in
A mixed bag then: About an hour of decent and highly
individual interpretations by Collins though in regrettable mono sound.
The rest is much stronger. Sea Drift and Song of the High
Hills are richly enjoyable as also is the Cello Sonata. Marriner's
Delius is top-flight.