Tuesday, July 17, 2018
Features and More

Review: 'Delius: Appalachia, Sea Drift' breathes life into Old Florida

The Florida angle is what makes the Florida Orchestra's all-Delius CD so exquisite. Englishman Frederick Delius is the most important classical composer whose music has a meaningful connection to the state (with apologies to a few others, such as Ernst Dohnanyi, who taught at FSU, and Miami native Ellen Taaffe Zwilich).

Delius (1862-1934) found his musical voice when his father, a wool merchant, sent him to work on an orange plantation called Solano Grove by the St. Johns River south of Jacksonville. The young aspiring composer would sit on his porch at night and listen to the songs of the African-American workers floating across the wide river.

You can hear the influence of Delius' formative Florida experience in Appalachia (from an American Indian word for the North American continent), the first of two big works on the disc performed by the orchestra, the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay and baritone Leon Williams, with Stefan Sanderling conducting. The live recording was made during two concerts at Mahaffey Theater in January.

When the chorus emerges from Delius' layered orchestral texture at various points in the 35-minute work, the impression of distant voices in the mist is haunting. There is a good case to be made for Appalachia, a set of 14 variations on an "old slave song," to be seen as a signpost on the road to Jerome Kern's score for Show Boat and George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, not to mention Dvorak's New World Symphony (cited by Joseph Horowitz in the liner notes).

In the wrong hands, Appalachia could have a tendency to sprawl and lose shape, but Sanderling paces the performance well. There is an elegaic, romantic atmosphere to the music, which would sound right at home in a Hollywood movie (as indeed it did in the score for The Yearling). Numerous deft little solos dot the work, with English horn, harp, French horn, violin and trumpet among the most prominent, and the Naxos recording brings out the details nicely.

Williams and the Master Chorale come to the fore in Sea Drift, which many regard as Delius' crowning achievement. A setting of a section of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, it is a challenging sing, and with the exception of an occasional labored phrase, the baritone brings lyrical smoothness and rich sonority to the tricky free verse, and his high notes (there are many) are clearly heard. A frequent soloist with the orchestra and Master Chorale, he has an innate theatricality and makes the tale of a seabird whose mate has vanished feel positively devastating as he mourns the loss "uselessly, uselessly all the night."

The only other pairing on disc of Appalachia and Sea Drift that I know of was put out in 1981 by Decca, with baritone John Shirley-Quirk, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and London Symphony Chorus, Richard Hickox conducting. It's a showier treatment, while this production has a muted, subtle quality that better suits the hazy tone colors and mysterious mood of the Delius sound.

John Fleming can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8716.

Comments
Bowled over: From acai to poke, the top 10 bowls in Tampa Bay

Bowled over: From acai to poke, the top 10 bowls in Tampa Bay

Why, exactly, are bowls the new plates? The Wall Street Journal declared it so. Tableware companies like Fiesta have reported serious double-digit growth in the sale of bowls, salad bowls, cereal bowls, you name it. Fast-food restaurants have jumped...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Grief and wit, heritage and family dynamics collide in ‘Bad Jews’ at American Stage

Grief and wit, heritage and family dynamics collide in ‘Bad Jews’ at American Stage

ST. PETERSBURG — Whatever else he learned at Cornell University and the Juilliard School, playwright Joshua Harmon surely learned family dynamics. His play, Bad Jews, bristles with wit and malevolence dished out by people for whom familiarity breeds ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
First look (with video): Universal’s new high-tech fountain shows ends the night at the theme park

First look (with video): Universal’s new high-tech fountain shows ends the night at the theme park

Visitors to Universal Studios in Orlando on Monday night got to witness the premiere of the new high-tech, dancing-fountain, cinematic show to end the day in the park in what the show’s creator called "a kiss goodnight." It’s full of ima...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Fantastic French red wines for just $15 a bottle

Fantastic French red wines for just $15 a bottle

We usually don’t expect red wines from Anjou, a small subregion of France’s Loire Valley, to be any good, but here’s an example that will persuade even the most cynical wine skeptic to scour store shelves for obscure wines. I also recommend a refresh...
Published: 07/17/18
This simple shrimp dish lets summer vegetables shine

This simple shrimp dish lets summer vegetables shine

o the Washington PostThis meal of crisp vegetables and plump shrimp is light, fresh, flavorful and fast. It is just the thing to whip up when you need to reset from a weekend of typical summer party fare, heavy on the grilled meats and mayonnaise-y s...
Published: 07/17/18
‘Honky Tonk Laundry’ starts a summer run at Show Palace in Hudson

‘Honky Tonk Laundry’ starts a summer run at Show Palace in Hudson

HUDSON — If you’re into country, Honky Tonk Laundry, which opens July 21 at the Show Palace Dinner Theatre, might be the ticket. Written by Roger Bean (The Marvelous Wonderettes/Life Could Be a Dream?), this comedy musical features a two-woman cast ...
Published: 07/16/18
Taste test: New snacks from Klondike, Quaker, Planters and Lay’s

Taste test: New snacks from Klondike, Quaker, Planters and Lay’s

Every parent knows the need to stock up the snack cupboard when their children are around for the summer. I am not sure whether they get hungrier in the hot weather or just bored. But judges said their children always want something to eat when they ...
Published: 07/16/18
Recipe for Roasted Peach and Chicken Salad With Bacon Vinaigrette

Recipe for Roasted Peach and Chicken Salad With Bacon Vinaigrette

I adore a hearty salad for summer, and this one came about as a result of having to use some leftovers in my fridge. Roasted peaches are a staple this time of year: slowly roasted in the oven for about 30 minutes on 350 degrees, drizzled with honey, ...
Published: 07/16/18
Hulk Hogan returns to the WWE after a three-year suspension

Hulk Hogan returns to the WWE after a three-year suspension

A racial tirade caught on tape caused World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. to cut ties with Hulk Hogan in 2015.But now the WWE has decided that Hogan, who helped turn the company into the biggest wrestling promoter in the world, has done enough to prov...
Published: 07/15/18
Updated: 07/16/18
This Florida burger joint is one of the 10 best in America, travel website says

This Florida burger joint is one of the 10 best in America, travel website says

A 2½-hour drive south could land Tampa residents at one of America’s best burger joints, according the review and travel website TripAdvisor.com.The website released a list of the "10 Most Delectable Burger Joints" in America on Wednesday, placing Na...
Published: 07/14/18