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Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934)
Orchestral Works

Brigg Fair – An English Rhapsody (1907) [15.39]
On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring (1912) [6.18]
The Walk to The Paradise Garden (1900-01) [8,26]
A Song of Summer (1930) [8.48]
London Symphony Orchestra/Anthony Collins
Recorded 1953

Please see my review of Ossy Renardy’s Brahms Concerto for a brief overview of this series of remastered recordings overseen by Andrew Rose at Pristine Audio. Also follow the link at the head of the review for contact information regarding this issue and the pricing structure which reflects the short playing time.

Anthony Collins’ Delius recordings of 1953 suffered from some sonic limitations and they can now sound rather string-starved and lacking in bloom. Additionally surface noise can rather afflict them. I’ve reviewed a re-release of them on this site link and I want to contrast that release on Decca, and the Beulah which also features some of them, with this new one. If we take Brigg Fair we find that Pristine has concentrated on eliminating the surface noise that rather let down the previous re-releases on Decca and Beulah. The results are commendably quiet and clean. The consequence of that however is to reduce the immediacy of the original recording; the orchestral strands are much less immediate – harp, winds – and less airy. Pristine’s result is a gauzy, quiet one but rather lacks openness of sound.

The same is true of the remainder of the Collins sides. The Walk To The Paradise Garden scores over Beulah in reducing surface noise and LP ticks and scratches but there is much less tone here and the results sounds dulled. Song of Summer is similarly transferred. The basses sound galumphing and indistinct. For all the surface clutter in the Decca and Beulah you could hear the string separation and choirs quite distinctly.

In short I think that there needs to be a balance between reducing the surface noise on these 1953 Deccas (and taming the shrillness of the strings) and retaining immediacy and openness of sound. We have seen certain Naxos transfers recently erring too far in favour of eliminating surface noise and I think this one does the same. The ear tends to accommodate the surface noise after a while but limiting frequency response doesn’t flatter these sides. The actual performances are a different matter. As far as I’m concerned Collins could do no wrong and I certainly commend his conducting.

Jonathan Woolf



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