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  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


 


Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934)
The Beecham Collection - The Delius Volumes (8 and 10)
Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934)

A Mass of Life - Prelude to Part II, No. 3 [4.30]
An Arabesk [11.16]
Songs of Sunset [22.36+2.20]
Songs (1): Whither; The Violet; I-Brasil; Klein Venevil [9.09]
Songs (2): Le Ciel est par-dessus le toit; The Violet; Irmelin Rose; Twilight Fancies; Cradle Song; Nightingale. [16.39]
Roy Henderson (bar), London Select Choir (Arabesk)
Olga Haley (sop), Roy Henderson (bar), London Select Choir (Sunset, all except last song)
Nancy Evans (sop), Redvers Llewellyn (bar), BBC Chorus (Sunset, last song)
Dora Labette (songs (1) (2))
London Philharmonic Orchestra (Mass; Arabesk; Sunset; Songs (1)); Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (Sunset - They Are Not Long); Beecham (piano), (Songs (2)).
Sir Thomas Beecham (conductor)
rec 11 Feb 1938, Studio No. 1, Abbey Rd, London (Mass, Songs (1)); 3 Oct 1934, Leeds Festival (Arabesk); 4 Oct 1934, Leeds Festival (Sunset - all except last song); 10 July, 24 June, 1929, Large Studio, Petty France (Songs (2)).
mono ADD
SOMM-BEECHAM 8 [73.40]
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Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934)

Brigg Fair [14.43]
On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring [6.28]
The Walk to the Paradise Garden [7.22]
Sea Drift [22.33]
North Country Sketches: Autumn; Winter Landscape [6.48+3.52]
A Song Before Sunrise [4.51]
A Dance Rhapsody No. [7.23]
Symphony Orchestra (Brigg); Orch of Royal Phil Soc (Cuckoo, Paradise); Dennis Noble (bar), Manchester Beecham Opera Chorus, London SO (Sea Drift); London Philharmonic Orchestra (Sketches, Sunrise, Rhapsody).
Sir Thomas Beecham (conductor)
11 Dec 1928, 10 July 1929, Portman Rooms, London (Brigg); 19 Dec 1927, Fyvie Hall, London (Cuckoo); 19-20 Dec 1927, Fyvie Hall, London (Walk); 11 Nov 1928, Portman Rooms, London (Sea Drift *); HMV no dates, locations (Sketches, Sunrise *); 16 Oct 1945, EMI Studio 1, Abbey Rd, London (Rhapsody *).
* previously unissued
rec mono ADD
SOMM-BEECHAM 10 [74.45]

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Relations between the various record companies and the Beecham Estate have not always been affable. The recorded legacy has been picked over and radio station archives ransacked with the sort of thoroughness we associate with Furtwängler's recordings. Such is the 'pull' of the Beecham reputation. Is it all reputation and no substance? I think not ... and these Delius anthologies (together with the separately reviewed SOMM set of A Village Romeo and Juliet) are proof enough of that. That they have appeared at all is thanks to the cooperation of the Beecham Trust and SOMM. It is good to hear that the Beecham Scholarship Fund will benefit from sales.
The draw of these discs is likely to be strong amongst Delians regardless of any other issues not least because across the three sets (including SOMM-BEECHAM 12-2), there are 24 tracks never previously issued in any commercial format. Of the rest, nine tracks make their first appearance on commercial CD.
On SOMM 8 the first three orchestral tracks (Brigg, Cuckoo and Paradise Garden) instantly announce Beecham's quiet and unstrenuous mastery; a mastery borne of confidence and an innate sympathy. Both Brigg and the Walk tap into that Delian mood that articulates the ineffable sadness of the loss of beauty in pastoral surroundings. This Sea Drift, never previously issued, is the first recording ever. It was recorded before Brigg but after the Walk and Cuckoo. Noble in this case sounds rather nasal and tightly British. I noticed one point at which he seems to swallow words but otherwise he is extremely clear. The orchestra and chorus lack quite the magic that glows from the first three tracks. Side changes are managed with sensitivity and for the most part will not be noticed at all. The two North Country Sketches are joyously well done and at 4.30 in A Song Before Sunrise Beecham makes delightful play of the dancing figure that closes the Song. The Dance Rhapsody itself dates from a decade and a half after the Portman and Fyvie sessions. It suffers from being rather earthbound, I thought.
There is a low level whiskery background attributable to the surfaces of the 78 rpm recordings but sound quality is pretty good given the great age of these recordings; in fact amazingly clear and communicative in the 1920s recordings. The background is disturbed by more dramatic trauma hardly at all; I noticed one sepia-toned cyclical click at 4.30 in Autumn but otherwise hardly anything to disturb the contented picture.
SOMM 10 has a vocal emphasis with only the Prelude to Part II of A Mass of Life being purely orchestral. This Prelude suffers from pretty poor sound at the start; poor that is for a 1938 recording when compared with what was achieved in the late 1920s (try the first three tracks of SOMM 10) but gradually sheds this. Things improve for An Arabesk
The ongoing SOMM Beecham series covers territory far beyond Delius. Details can be found at www.somm-recordings.demon.co.uk so if Beecham is or is becoming one of your grails then visit the site today. By all means check the Naxos, EMI Classics and Sony catalogues but Siva Oke's SOMM company really have approached the Beecham legacy with a discriminating thoroughness and fine artistic judgement. That they are supported by the Beecham Trust, one of the most demanding of foundations, also tells us something about in what high esteem Somm are held.
Graham Melville-Mason's notes are a standard across all three issues and he always finds something new to say in each case.
Texts are printed in all cases except A Village Romeo and Juliet where instead we are given Eric Fenby's detailed plot synopsis.
Beecham's authoritative sense of plastic flow triumphs in these delicate blooms heard in Somm's minimal interventionist processing. While Beecham's is not the only way; neither are those of Barbirolli, Del Mar or Fenby, he is always provocatively adroit in his Delius interpretations. Historic recordings which incite surrender to the music and which transcend the now antique recording quality. Indispensable for out and out Delian completists. Superbly and thoughtfully presented.


Rob Barnett



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