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Thursday, May 11, 2017

Frederick Delius - Appalachia; Brigg Fair (John Barbirolli)


Composer: Frederick Delius

  • (01-23) Brigg Fair - An English rhapsody
  • (24) In a Summer Garden
  • (25-41) Appalachia - Variations on an old slave song with final chorus
  • (01) 2 Pieces for small orchestra: I. On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring
  • (02) 2 Pieces for small orchestra: II. Summer Night on the River
  • (03) A Song Before Sunrise
  • (04) Hassan, incidental music: Intermezzo (arr. Beecham)
  • (05) Hassan, incidental music: Serenade (tenor solo)
  • (06) Koanga, opera: La Calinda (arr. Fenby)
  • (07) Late Swallows (arr. Fenby)
  • (08) Fennimore and Gerda, opera: Intermezzo (arr. Fenby)
  • (09) A Village Romeo & Juliet, lyric drama: The Walk to the Paradise Garden (arr. Beecham)
  • (10) Irmelin Prelude
  • (11) A Song of Summer

Alun Jenkins, baritone (CD1 25-41)
Robert Tear, tenor (CD2 5)
Ambrosian Singers (CD1 25-41)
Hallé Orchestra
London Symphony Orchestra (CD2 9-11)
John Barbirolli, conductor

Date: 1957 (CD2 8), 1967 (CD2 9-11), 1970 (CD1 24, CD2 1-7), 1971
Compilation: 1994
Label: EMI



If it can't be Beecham, it should be Anthony Collins; if it can't be Anthony Collins, it should be Barbirolli. If you tend to think along these lines where Delius is concerned, then perhaps it should be this record. For not only do Barbirolli and his orchestra handle the music most sensitively, whether in Appalachia or in Brigg Fair, but they are recorded in round, rich quality, probably more so than this music has ever received elsewhere.

The vocal contribution (to Appalachia) is not quite so immediately convincing, however, as the instrumental. The baritone sings his short contribution like an important concert soloist (volkstumlich—exactly the opposite—wrote Delius; he added that the soloist must be placed in the chorus, not beside only a fair imitation of a chorus of negro slaves, which is perhaps reasonable enough. But who will be the first to be brave and give us a record of Appalachia without white imitations; instead with a virile black chorus, and a member of that chorus singing the short solo (as Delius intended) from his normal place of work and not spotlit like Elijah?

Nevertheless, while waiting do not overlook this record: it is a very good one.'


Sir John Barbirolli was nearly as fine an interpreter of Delius as Beecham. But where Sir Thomas liked to bring out the sun, Sir John was at his best shading in the darker tones of the Delian palette. There is a starkness to the “Nordic” moments in these pieces which serves to remind us that Barbirolli, again like Beecham, was an outstanding interpreter of Sibelius’s music. What is unique to Barbirolli is the searing emotion he finds in the music, especially in Delius’s writing for the strings. His accounts have a high expressive profile, and an intensity of expression bordering on the incandescent. Although there is a slight amount of grain to the sound, the recordings, which date from the mid-’60s, are well balanced and have an appealing “live” ambience to them.

-- Ted Libbey, author of The NPR Guide to Building a Classical CD Collection


More reviews:


Frederick Delius (29 January 1862 – 10 June 1934) was an English composer who forged a unique version of the Impressionist musical language of the early twentieth century. The lyricism in Delius's early compositions reflected the music he had heard in America and the influences of European composers such as Edvard Grieg and Richard Wagner. As his skills matured, he developed a style uniquely his own, characterised by his individual orchestration and his uses of chromatic harmony. After WWII, Delius' fame began to spread, due in large part to the efforts of Thomas Beecham, who championed Delius' music.


John Barbirolli (2 December 1899 – 29 July 1970) was a British conductor and cellist. He is remembered above all as conductor of the Hallé Orchestra in Manchester, which he helped save from dissolution in 1943 and conducted for the rest of his life. Barbirolli was particularly associated with the music of English composers such as Elgar, Delius and Vaughan Williams. His interpretations of other late romantic composers, such as Mahler and Sibelius, as well as of earlier classical composers, including Schubert, are also still admired.


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