The shadow of Grieg lies heavily across Delius's early music, even the Florida Suite
, with its ostensibly American inspiration. What Delius hadn't mastered at this stage was the knowledge of when to stop, and some of the movements, with their four-square harmonic shifts, outstay their welcome. But in two of the sections, 'Sunset' and 'At Night', he begins to feel his way forward to his mature style, and it's here that Handley is at his most affectionate. North Country Sketches
is a more mature work, surer in its chromatic harmonies, and with a definite sense of direction, helped here by Handley's instinct for the inner pulse of the music - there's no hint of that aimless meandering with which Delius is so often charged. The inimitable Beecham may bring that extra bit of sophistication to these works, but his recorded sound is now dated, whereas the Chandos recording allows Delius's palette of colours to shine through.
© BBC Music Magazine 2001