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Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934)
Florida Suite (rev. ed. Beecham) (1886-87) [36:15]
Paris - The Song of a Great City (1899) [21:22]
Brigg Fair - An English Rhapsody (1907) [16:02]
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Richard Hickox
rec. Wessex Hall, Poole Centre, 7-8 May 1989. DDD

These are gorgeous performances and recordings of Delius favourites played unaffectedly yet con molto amore. They also have the benefit of finely graduated digital sound from 1989 taken down in a kindly acoustic.
For the second time recently I find myself qualifying my prejudices in relation to Richard Hickox - about all-purpose conveyor belt revivals of British music. If there was ever any truth in that ignorant generalisation it is refuted by the evidence he produces here in honeyed warm sound and caring legato. The highlights in the harps, woodwind and percussion are superbly caught in the glinting sun of the engineer's control panel and microphone placement in Wessex Hall. That Hickox achieves this in that graveyard of conducting reputations where Beecham is still an asphyxiating competitive presence in the catalogue is all the more wonderful.
I urge you to try the most seductive movements of the Florida Suite - By the River and the "shortening bread" Danza of Sunset - for evidence. The Pine Tree town orchestra's wind soloists have plentiful opportunities to shine and continue to do so in the winding miasmic prelude to Paris - magically done although as a work it is not the most potent of Delius pieces and Beecham's version on Sony is well worth hearing - mono and all. Interesting to compare the mists out of which the seductive and for Delius ultimately fatal city arises with those that cloak Vaughan Williams' A London Symphony - also recorded by Hickox for Chandos. Paris was written and premiered by Hans Haym in Elberfeld as was Appalachia and the Piano Concerto. Haym was also the dedicatee of Paris.
Brigg Fair is again most warmly and affectionately shaped and recorded and can stand confidently alongside the various Beecham versions. Brigg Fair is dedicated to Percy Grainger who provided his own choral arrangement of the folk song. The Delius piece had the honour of being premiered by the composer Granville Bantock and the Liverpool Orchestral Society in 1908.
The ideally complementary liner-notes are by Lyndon Jenkins.
Rob Barnett



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