Sir Thomas Beecham was acknowledged as the finest interpreter of Delius' music during the last century. The composer's friend and biographer, his performances remain a benchmark against which all must be judged. This invaluable anthology contains some of the finest he taped for EMI in the 1940's and 50's.
The first two discs contain all those works he recorded in stereo. They comprise a selection of shorter works, the complete Florida Suite and a wonderful 'Songs of Sunset' - settings of 'fin du siecle' poems by Ernest Dowson - splendidly sung by John Cameron and Maureen Forrester. Some these performances have been out of the catalogue for some years and their reappearance in complete form is greatly to be welcomed.
The third disc comprises the 1952 'Dance Rhapsody No 1' and three from 1946. The violin concerto receives a fine performance from Jean Pougnet and those a 'The Song of the High Hills' and 'On the Mountains' are equally good.
The next two discs contain a splendid performance of the complete 'A Village Romeo and Juliet'. Beecham makes the best possible case for this unjustly neglected opera. The cast could not be bettered and the recording quality is amazingly good considering its 1948 date. Also included is the 1951 'Sea Drift' with Gordon Clinton as a fine soloist. This recording, which remained unissued until 1992, is arguably Beecham's finest of this elusive work.
As a sort of appendix, the final disc includes recordings of works by other English composers. German's 'Gypsy Suite' shows Beecham's ability to bring out the very best in what is ofter dismissed as 'light' music. Bantock's 'Fifine at the Fair' is a splendid performance of a fine work which should be better known. Bax's 'Garden of Fand' - recorded in the presence of the composer - receives its finest recorded performance. The extracts from Berners' 'Triumph of Neptune' are thoroughly enjoyable but, arguably, better served by Beecham's later recording for Sony/CBS.
The remastering of this anthology is fully up to EMI's usual high standard and the booklet essay by Lyndon Jenkins is ideal for a reissue of this type.
An absolutely essential purchase for all lovers of English music, this box can be recommended without reservation.
It would be good at the modest cost of this set for anyone interested in the great tradition of English Music to hear what one of the most considered and charming (well maybe not some of his very funny comments)conductor did with this important composers work. There is a but in one or two interpretations the singer/s were not as good as I have heard on other recorded performances - it is add a dash of Terfel / Hampson in here and there with Mackeras. Whatever I say please acquire this for your own sake.Delius;Sea Drift/Florida Su