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<<  -- 2 --  Robert Anderson    DELIAN SUBTLETY


Single-handed he made Delius into a great composer, apparent author of masterpieces by the dozen, whereas maybe only two are of top-notch quality, A Mass of Life and A Village Romeo and Juliet. Beecham recorded more than forty works by Delius, the vast majority after making England his final home but for income tax evasions into foreign parts. He made no Delius recordings before the electrical process was adopted in 1925. He had no intention of huddling a Delian orchestra, decimated beyond recognition, within minimal feet of a recording horn, as Elgar had been so often prepared to do. The earliest recordings here date from the summer of 1929, when for six songs Sir Thomas is at the keyboard rather than on the rostrum. His soprano is the clear-voiced Dora Labbette, whom I heard when a mystified boy at an early concert in her incarnation as Lisa Perli. For Twilight Fancies, the translation of Bjørnson's Norwegian is further adapted by Sir Thomas so that the princess is discovered in a 'turreted keep' rather than a 'maiden bow'r', and the herd-boy below no longer has a horn. The strophic song is simple but beautifully turned [listen -- track 18, 0:00-1:13].

The major works on the CD were all recorded again by Sir Thomas under more favourable conditions. The Leeds Festival live takes of 1934 are no better than expected, and quite the most satisfactory of the Songs of Sunset is the missing final one that has required a post-war substitute from 1946 [listen -- track 10, 0:00-1:12]. At the time Sir Thomas rejected it and was only satisfied by his version of 1957. The Violet (1900) was orchestrated eight years later for Olga Wood, and again Beecham has had a go at Delius's translation of Holstein [listen -- track 12, 0:00-0:51]. Both piano and orchestral versions appear on the CD, the latter an object-lesson in Delian subtlety.

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Copyright © 5 March 2003 Robert Anderson, London, UK


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