The Best of Delius (CD review)

David Lloyd-Jones, Royal Scottish National Orchestra and English Northern Philharmonia; Richard Studt, Bournemouth Sinfonietta; Myer Fredman, New Zealand Symphony. Naxos 8.556837.

If you are still unfamiliar with the music of English composer Frederick Delius (1862-1934), this budget-priced Naxos disc might be a good place to start. Delius was writer of mostly short, pastoral works, long on quiet, languid atmosphere and short on excitement or bombast. "Summer Night on the River" is the one title by him that best sums up his style. Listening to his music is like floating gently down a river on a warm summer's evening, going nowhere in particular but simply enjoying the ride.

The various brief works on the disc represent the essence of the composer, things like the aforementioned "Summer Night on the River," plus "On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring," "Florida Suite: By the River," "The Walk to the Paradise Garden," "Winter Night (Sleigh Ride)," "Idylle Printemps," and others. David Lloyd-Jones and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and English Northern Philharmonia play most of the music, with Richard Studt and the Bournemouth Sinfonietta and Myer Fredman and the New Zealand Symphony filling in on a few other tunes. They all do justice to the gentle qualities of the music.

The sonics are fairly typical of what Naxos does, sounding fine but not in the first order of audio recordings. It's slightly soft, warm, and resonant, which, in fact, tends to fit the mood of the music.

The only minor drawback to the Naxos collection is that for about the same price you can get most of this music and more played by the master, Sir Thomas Beecham, on a low-priced EMI two-disc set. Beecham championed Delius in the early part of the twentieth century and pretty much put him on the map. Ironically, perhaps, while the Beecham recordings are early stereo from 1956-57, they actually sound better, more transparent, than most of the newer Naxos material, recorded between 1999-2004. Anyway, it's still good to have the Naxos disc with us; the more Delius in the camp, the better.


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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa