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This performance is self-evidently formative, but not necessarily definitive. In Beecham's hands the story unfolds as rustic tragedy consummated by languorous liebestod [listen -- CD 2 track 3, 11:52-12:55], but something of mystery, magic and even menace is lacking. Gordon Clinton's Dark Fiddler is avuncular and chummy where something other-worldly and suggestively sinister may be what is needed to temper the almost overwhelming sweetness of Delius' music [listen -- CD 1 track 1, 7:20-8:18]. The pulse too is so regularly constant that the effect sometimes is all too close to embalming.

These discs have been digitally remastered but, as a note indicates, it was not possible to eliminate all surface noise 'without compromising audio quality' -- which means, in effect, that the aural experience falls quite a long way short of the perfect. The mono sound is frankly dusty and the surface occasionally rough. Sometimes the balance is odd too. Rather forward horns give a disconcerting impression from time to time that one is listening to a re-incarnated Weber. But -- historic though it may be -- this is no fossil and, pending a sympathetic and passionate modern performance (and Hickox's 1997 recording of Fennimore and Gerda, for example, is just such) it stands as indispensable.

Space on the second disc is filled up with a complete performance of The Songs of Sunset (Olga Haley and Roy Henderson at the Leeds Festival in 1934). Delius admirers will want to have this for itself alone [listen -- CD 2 track 11, 1:40-2:29].

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



Frederick Delius: A Village Romeo & Juliet - The Beecham Collection

SOMM - BEECHAM 12-2 ADD Mono Reissue (2 CDs) 70'22"/72'15" - TT 142'37" 2001 SOMM Recordings

Delius: A Village Romeo and Juliet (soloists, BBC Theatre Chorus, RPO); Delius: Songs of Sunset (soloists, London Select Choir, LPO)



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