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Alan Opie, The Bach Choir, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, David Hill

Delius: A Mass of Life (Naxos)

English-born Frederick Delius is still barely noticed on this side of the Atlantic, even with 2012 being the 150th anniversary of his birth. Delius was a cosmopolitan, an unclassifiable original and genuinely great composer championed by legendary conductor Sir Thomas Beecham, who recorded Delius's music prolifically.

A Mass of Life was premiered by Beecham in 1909 and notwithstanding a share of inflated writing in its approximately two-hour duration, comes across as an extraordinary work that should convert many to Delius's world. The texts are drawn from the more poetic passages of Nietzsche's Also Sprach Zarathustra. The music contains many moments of vivid, sensuous and moving happenings, both as underpinnings and self-contained scenes. Delius was always at one with Nietzsche's dictum that without music life would be a mistake, and it's easy to concur here.

The performance is outstanding, with baritone Alan Opie most eloquent as the philosopher, a wonderful chorus and massive orchestra beautifully captured in the recording. HHHH1/2

-- James Manishen

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 14, 2012 G4

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