Notes and Editorial Reviews
Let’s cut right to the chase: Ormandy’s Tallis Fantasia is one of the reference versions of the work, while his Delius is every bit as fine as Beecham’s. It has all of the same virtues: flowing tempos (indeed, in Brigg Fair he’s a minute quicker), magnificent orchestral playing, and a willingness to let the music unfold freshly and naturally. The only reason these performances fail to receive the acclaim that they deserve is because the English press, historically, has been quick to dismiss foreigners who dare to compete with home-grown talent in “their” music, and no one else much cares.
Still, just listen to the massed Philadelphia strings in the first great tutti of the Tallis Fantasia (first sound sample). This is great playing, and beyond that Ormandy’s tempo, a bit quicker than usual, gives the music an uncommon degree of energy without compromising its nobility of spirit. The Fantasia on ‘Greensleeves’ is basically indestructible and certainly in no danger here, while Sony offers a lovely bonus in the form of The Lark Ascending, affectingly played by Cleveland Orchestra concertmaster Rafael Druian and the Cleveland Sinfonietta under Louis Lane.
As for the Delius works, has there ever been a more purely beautiful version of In a Summer Garden? Or a more rapturously played recording of Brigg Fair (second sound sample)? Ormandy’s reputation has never been lower than it is at present, but there was a reason he was Sony’s (Columbia’s) “house” conductor in the 50s and 60s. He and his orchestra maintained a level of versatility and polish that no one else could match, and his catholicity of taste was remarkable. This surprising disc makes a fine tribute to his art, and an eloquent reminder of his achievement in repertoire for which he was, to put it mildly, not a household name.
-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com