Music Review
12:00 pm
Thu October 11, 2012

Music Review: Beecham Conducting Delius Makes me Doze

  • Delius's A Song Before Sunrise, performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham on English Music, EMI Classics.

Sir Thomas Beecham, a great British conductor who celebrated unknown composers, preforms in this re-mastered album fifty years after his death.  Beecham is known for founding four symphony orchestras, and this six-disc collection is recorded with his last orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic. 

Five out of the six discs feature music composed by Delius, whose style is unique and recognizable.  Most of his orchestral works are slow, flowing string pieces with little dynamic contrast.

Disc one featured Briggs Fair, which has very short movements that don’t blend together.  These fifteen second to one-minute melodies should have been preformed as one track.  The disc ended with the Florida Suite and March Caprice, which are more lively and expressive.

The second disc almost put me to sleep.  Most of the recordings sound very similar, with slow longing, string melodies.  The intermezzo was the best piece on this disc as it highlighted some of the winds, which added a different color to the orchestra.

On Disc three the Dance Rhapsody was the song to listen to, definitely the best Delius composition in this set.  The violin concerto sounded tinny and empty and there was no excitement in the performance.

Discs four and five included scenes from Delius’ opera A Village Romeo and Juliet.  The vocalists preformed marvelously, but the opera would be better on stage than on a CD.  The emotion and acting did not shine through in the recording, which made it dull.  Sea Drift was an interesting choral performance on disc five, but several times during the piece, the orchestra overpowered the singers, which ruined one of the better compositions.

On the final disc, Beecham and the Royal Philharmonic featured other British composers.  The second track, the allegro movement from The Gipsy Suite by German, came crashing in for the tempo and excitement the collection needed.  It woke me up! Lord Berners’ The Triumph of Neptune continued that same energy to finish the disc.

Sir Thomas Beecham does a great job with the very chordal music that Delius presents, and the orchestra is always balanced, but the dynamics are subtle and the similar sounding music seems to go on forever.  Delius is one of the less known composers, and Beecham dedicated most of his life trying to change that by continuing to preform his works.  Interspersed with other composers, Delius might provide a needed slow-down, but as a full-feature he seems to make us nod our heads and doze.