The Fenby Legacy

Author: 
Ivan March

The Fenby Legacy

  • Songs of Farewell
  • Idyll: Once I passed through a populous city
  • Fantastic Dance
  • (A) Song of Summer
  • Cynara
  • Irmelin Prelude
  • (A) Late Lark
  • Koanga, La Calinda (choral dance)
  • Caprice and Elegy
  • (2) Aquarelles
  • Fennimore and Gerda Intermezzo

I remember hearing John Goldsmith's public presentation of this famous set (when it was first issued on LP) at the Torbay gramophone weekend, reproduced on equipment of the highest order. Listening now to the CDs domestically, I recapture the impression of that experience, for the evocative opening of the Songs of Farewell, with the distance chorus, is caught with remarkable reality: Delius's choral writing is always curiously thick, yet here nothing is opaque and balances are virtually ideal.
The ''Legacy'' of the title encapsulates all the music with which the distinguished and devoted Eric Fenby is associated as the composer's amanuensis. A Song of Summer and Songs of Farewell are the most important. With excellent soloists the performances are as definitive as anything could be in the post-Beecham era. Fenby is a lovingly affectionate interpreter, witness the sensuous way he draws out the close of La calinda, but most of all this music comes vividly alive, and the sound (producer: Christopher Palmer; engineers: Bob Auger, Tony Faulkner and Geoffrey Barton) is an example of a striking early digital success—the recordings were made in Watford Town Hall and Barking Assembly Hall in February and April 1981. Christopher Palmer's notes are admirable and properly extensive. The typeface is small but quite clear and readable. A must for all CD Delians. I must not forget to emphasize that the many beautifully refined pianissimos which Fenby achieves can now be fully enjoyed against the security of CD background silence. In the tuttis of the orchestral pieces (La calinda for instance) one would have ideally liked a degree more amplitude, but detail is clear and there is no digital edge.'

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