Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934)
A Delius Collection of Rare Historic Recordings
Performers include Sir John Barbirolli, Sir Eugène Goossens, Constant Lambert, Isobel Baillie and Heddle Nash.
rec. 1929-55 ADD Mono
Track-listing at end of review

The Danish label Danacord extends its commitment to Delius by combing the historic market for choice examples of non-Beecham recordings. The programme contains a good balance of material, and one is glad to see a couple of Argo LPs in particular.

Constant Lambert recorded some Delius in the early 1940s. He accompanied Moiseiwitsch in the Piano Concerto and his performance of this and La Calinda, which opens this Danacord disc, can be found on Testament SBT1014. Sidney Beer was always rather sneered at for being a moneyed dilettante but his Irmelin Prelude holds up pretty well, helped by the superstars of the ad-hoc National Symphony Orchestra – just listen to the luxury-casting winds and the strings who seem to have modelled their luscious portamenti on MGM Studio orchestras from the sound of it; maybe a smattering of café fiddlers helped too. Recorded in 1941, this was issued on the last 78 side of Moura Lympany’s recording of Liszt’s First Piano Concerto conducted by Royalton Kisch – but not issued until May 1948 - so I suspect most will be unfamiliar with it. I’d never come across it.

Another rarity is the 1955 Argo of the Caprice and Elegy played by Anthony Pini, then Beecham’s cello principal in the RPO, and his regular sonata partner Wilfrid Parry. The Beatrice Harrison recording is still much better known, from a historic perspective, and rightly so as it was written for her, but Pini was an outstanding player and this is a very persuasive performance indeed. Another outstanding player led Boyd Neel’s string orchestra – namely Frederick Grinke. Danacord has disinterred the 1938 Decca of the Air and Dance; they also recorded, three months earlier, the Two Aquarelles, but the Danacord selection committee has gone instead for Barbirolli’s 1948 recording instead – a good compromise – and added A Song of Summer, a fine performance from 1950, again with the Hallé. Henry Holst and Gerald Moore recorded the Légende in 1942 for Walter Legge. It’s also on Testament SBT1014. Holst was in the throes of a large number of sessions as a member of the Philharmonia Quartet at the time. It’s probable that Albert Sammons was still contracted to Decca at the time, as he was the more obvious choice to record it.

Vocal Argo comes from soprano Joan Stuart and Gordon Watson, who recorded The Violet and Sweet Venevil in 1955. The preceding year she had sung Irmelin excerpts with Beecham, which clearly did her no harm. There’s a trio of stellar vocal talents on 78; Heddle Nash’s ardent 1934 To the Queen of My Heart is here (it’s been re-released on CD). He also recorded Love’s Philosophy but cleverly Danacord has gone instead for Isobel Baillie’s 1945 Columbia 78. Maggie Teyte’s 1937 Decca of Indian Love Song is here too and very valuably so.

Evlyn Howard-Jones’s 1929 Columbia of the Three Preludes for Piano has been reissued on Dutton CDAX8006, which also had the Five Pieces, and the Dance for Harpsichord. Orchestrally we find Anthony Collins’s On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring – which is not included in the Belart collection devoted to his Delius recordings with the LSO (461 7582). Eugène Goossens’s The Walk to the Paradise Garden comes from Cincinnati sessions in 1946, issued on a rather rough sounding RCA Victor, but containing considerable communicative inspiration.

In fact there’s a great deal to interest and stimulate in this selection. I also commend the biographical notes and in particular the gap-filling approach to rarer material.

Jonathan Woolf

see also reviews by John France and Rob Barnett

A great deal to interest and stimulate.


La Calinda [3:29]
Hallé Orchestra/Constant Lambert
Recorded 30 July 1941: HMV C3273

Irmelin Prelude [5:03]
National Symphony Orchestra/Sidney Beer
8 June 1944: Decca K1834

Caprice & Elegy [6:43]
Anthony Pini, cello - Wilfrid Parry, piano
1955: Argo RG47

Air and Dance [4:33]
The Boyd Neel String Orchestra
20 October 1938: Decca X147

The Violet [2:32]
Joan Stuart, soprano - Gordon Watson, piano
1955: Argo RG46

Sweet Venevil [2:54]
Joan Stuart, soprano - Gordon Watson, piano
1955: Argo RG46

On hearing the first Cuckoo in Spring [6:18]
London Symphony Orchestra/Anthony Collins
23 & 25 February 1953: Decca LXT2788

Indian Love Song [3:12]
Maggie Teyte, soprano - Rita Mackay, piano
Decca LXT6126

To the Queen of my Heart [3:07]
Heddle Nash, tenor - Gerald Moore, piano
7 December 1934: Columbia SDX7

Love's philosophy [1:48]
Isobel Baillie, soprano - Gerald Moore, piano
31 May 1945: Columbia DB2178

Two Aquarelles (arr. Fenby) [3:49]
Hallé Orchestra/Sir John Barbirolli
1 April 1948: HMV C3864

Three Preludes for piano [3:34]
Evlyn Howard-Jones, piano
4 April 1929: Columbia 5444

The Walk to the Paradise Garden [9:23]
[A Village Romeo and Juliet (arr. Beecham)]
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra/Eugène Goossens
14 February 1946: RCA Victor 11-9493

Légende for violin & piano [8:40]
Henry Holst, violin - Gerald Moore, piano
7 August 1942: Columbia DX1094

A Song of Summer [11:02]
Hallé Orchestra/Sir John Barbirolli
2 February 1950: HMV DB9609/70