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A landmark

Delius's 'A Village Romeo and Juliet' -
explored by PETER DALE

'Beecham produces a performance redolent even now of passion and conviction ...'

The Beecham Collection - Delius: A Village Romeo and Juliet. © 2001 SOMM Recordings


This is the only available recording of what many regard as Delius' masterpiece, and Beecham, of course, is generally reckoned this composer's interpreter par excellence. Originally broadcast in 1948, its issue, at last, is a landmark.

Beecham's cast includes Fabian Smith, Frederick Sharp, René Soames, Vera Terry and, as The Dark Fiddler, Gordon Clinton -- an Olympiad indeed. The RPO -- somewhat sepia-toned after all these years -- achieves that quintessentially Delian effect of seamlessly passing the musical line in and out of voices into orchestra, orchestra into voices, with a beauty of flow and tremendously subtle blending of colours. Beecham produces a performance redolent even now of passion and conviction -- which, surely, is half the battle with Delius whose music is so notoriously vulnerable to indifferent execution [listen -- CD 1 track 1, 0:02-1:02]. There are not a few currently available performances of the most celebrated part of this opera: The Walk to The Paradise Garden, but almost as many are apt to come over as somewhat sprawling, Delius' incorrigible tendency to loose rhapsody being allowed to degenerate into shapeless meandering. Or else they strain self-indulgently. Beecham is rightly credited by musical historians with having avoided both pit-falls. Famously, Delius' music does not play itself but, on the other hand, nor does it benefit from special pleading.

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Copyright © 28 April 2002 Peter Dale, Danbury, Essex, UK




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