Bournemouth SO / Hickox
(Chandos CHAN 9355)
The word "languid" could have been invented for Delius. Compared with In a Summer Garden, Wagner's music-dramas are high-energy ballets, Bruckner is an alpine sprinter. Even the two Dance Rhapsodies only manage to suggest a rather dreamy, effete kind of activity, viewed, no doubt, from a well- cushioned bath chair.
But give up the expectation that Delius is going to stir himself over much, and his music can be insidiously pleasurable. North Country Sketches and In a Summer Garden show him at his most shamelessly hedonistic, while The Walk to the Paradise Garden has two big plusses: a superb, aspiring tune and a passionate, very un-English climax.
Delius needs loving, understanding direction, though, and he gets it from Richard Hickox. Music that lives purely for sensation, for the beauty of the passing moment, can easily suffer in the recording studio, but here it blossoms. The orchestral balance and blend of colours is gorgeous; even the transience of the dance figures adds to the mood of sumptuous nostalgia.
It's consistent with that mood to insist that no one can do Delius any more - that the golden age died with Beecham. Perhaps my liking for this new version shows that I'm not a true devotee. But it's a long time since I heard a new recording of any of this music that sounded so natural and so persuasive. Is a Delius revival on the cards? Stranger things have happened.