Delius, Frederick (actually, Fritz Theodor Albert)

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Delius, Frederick (actually, Fritz Theodor Albert)

Delius, Frederick (actually, Fritz Theodor Albert) , significant English composer of German parentage; b. Bradford, Jan. 29, 1862; d. Grez-sur-Loing, France, June 10, 1934. His father was a successful merchant, owner of a wool company; he naturally hoped to have his son follow a career in industry, but did not object to his study of art and music. Delius learned to play the piano and violin. At the age of 22 he went to Solano, Fla., to work on an orange plantation owned by his father; a musical souvenir of his sojourn there was his symphonic suite Florida. There he met an American organist, Thomas F. Ward, who gave him a thorough instruction in theory; this study, which lasted 6 months, gave Delius a foundation for his further progress in music. In 1885 he went to Danville, Va., as a teacher. In 1886 he enrolled at the Leipzig Cons., where he took courses in harmony and counterpoint with Reinecke, Sitt, and Jadassohn. It was there that he met Grieg, becoming his friend and admirer. Indeed, Grieg’s music found a deep resonance in his own compositions. An even more powerful influence was Wagner, whose principles of continuous melodic line and thematic development Delius adopted in his own WORKS. Euphonious serenity reigns on the symphonic surface of his music, diversified by occasional resolvable dissonances. In some WORKS, he made congenial use of English folk motifs, often in elaborate variation forms. Particularly successful are his evocative symphonic sketches On Hearing the 1st Cuckoo in Spring, North Country Sketches, Brigg Fair, and A Song of the High Hills. His orch. nocturne Paris: The Song of a Great City is a tribute to a city in which he spent many years of his life. Much more ambitious in scope is his choral work A Mass of Life, in which he draws on passages from Nietzsche’s Also sprach Zarathustra.

Delius settled in Paris in 1888; in 1897 he moved to Grez-sur-Loing, near Paris, where he remained for the rest of his life, except for a few short trips abroad. In 1903 he married the painter Jelka Rosen. His music began to win recognition in England and Germany; he became a favorite composer of Sir Thomas Beecham, who gave numerous performances of his music in London. But these successes came too late for Delius; a syphilitic infection that he had contracted early in life eventually grew into an incurable illness accompanied by paralysis and blindness; as Beecham phrased it, “Delius had suffered a heavy blow in the defection of his favorite goddess, Aphrodite Pandemos, who had returned his devotions with an affliction that was to break out many years later/’ Still eager to compose, he engaged as his amanuensis the English musician Eric Fenby, who wrote down music at the dictation of Delius, including complete orch. scores. In 1929 Beecham organized a Delius Festival in London (6 concerts; Oct. 12 to Nov. 1, 1929) and the composer was brought from France to hear it. In the same year Delius was made a Companion of Honour by King George V and an Hon.Mus.D. by Oxford. A film was made by the British filmmaker Ken Russell on the life and WORKS of Delius. However, he remains a solitary figure in modern music. Affectionately appreciated in England, in America, and to some extent in Germany, his WORKS are rarely performed elsewhere.


DRAMATIC Zanoni, incidental music after Bulwer Lytton (1888; unfinished);Irmelin, Opéra (1890–92; Ox-ford, May 4, 1953); The Magic Foundation, lyric drama (1893–95; BBC, London, Nov. 20, 1977); Koanga, lyric drama (1895–97; Elberfeld, March 30, 1904); Folkeraadet, incidental music to G. Heiberg’s drama (Christiania, Oct. 18,1897); A Village Romeo and Juliet, lyric drama (1899–1901; Berlin, Feb. 21, 1907); Margot la Rouge, lyric drama (1902; concert perf. BBC, London, Feb. 21, 1982; stage perf., St. Louis, June 8, 1983); Fennimore and Gerda, Opéra (1908–10; Frankfurt am Main, Oct. 21, 1919); Hassan, or The Golden Journey to Samarkand, incidental music to J. Flecker’s drama (1920–23; Darmstadt, June 1, 1923; full version, London, Sept. 20, 1923). ORCH.: Florida, suite (1887; private perf., Leipzig, 1888; rev. 1889; public perf., London, April 1, 1937); Hiawatha, tone poem (1888; unfinished; excerpt, Norwegian TV, Oslo, Jan. 13,1984); Suite for Violin and Orch. (1888; BBC, Feb. 28,1984); Rhapsodic Variations (1888; unfinished);Idylle de Printemps (1889); Suite d’orchestre (1889); 3 Small Tone Poems:Summer Evening, Winter Night [Sleigh Ride], and Spring Morning (1889–90; Westminster, Nov. 18, 1946); Legendes for Piano and Orch. (1890; unfinished);Petite suite d’orchestre for Small Orch. (1890; Stratford-upon-Avon, May 13, 1978); Paa vidderne (On the Heights), symphonic poem after Ibsen (1890–91; Christiania, Oct. 10,1891); Legende for Violin and Orch. (1895?; London, May 30, 1899); Over the Hills and Far Away, fantasy overture (1895–97; Elberfeld, Nov. 13,1897); Appalachia: American Rhapsody (1896; London, Dec. 10, 1986; rev. as Appalachia: Variations on an Old Slave Song for Baritone, Chorus, and Orch.; 1902–03; Elberfeld, Oct. 15, 1904); Piano Concerto in C minor (1st version in 3 movements, 1897; Elberfeld, Oct. 24, 1904; 2nd version in 1 movement, 1906; London, Oct. 22, 1907); La Ronde se deroule, symphonic poem after H. Rode (London, May 30, 1899; rev. 1901, as Lebenstanz [Life’s Dance]; Diisseldorf, Jan. 21,1904; 2nd rev., 1912; Berlin, Nov. 15, 1912); Paris: A Nocturne (The Song of a Great City) (1899; Elberfeld, Dec. 14, 1901); Brigg Fair: An English Rhapsody (Basel, 1907); In a Summer Garden, rhapsody (London, Dec. 11, 1908; rev., Boston, April 19, 1912); A Dance Rhapsody, No. 1 (1908; Hereford, Sept. 8,1909) and No. 2 (1916; London, Oct. 20, 1923); 2 Pieces for Small Orch:On Hearing the 1st Cuckoo in Spring (1912) and Summer Night on the River (1911; Leipzig, Oct. 23, 1913); North Country Sketches (1913–14; London, May 10, 1915); Air and Dance for Strings (private perf., London, 1915; public perf., London, Oct. 16, 1929); Double Concerto for Violin, Cello, and Orch. (1915–16; London, Feb. 21, 1920); Violin Concerto (1916; London, Jan. 30, 1919); Eventyr (Once upon a Time), ballad after Asbjrnsen (1917; London, Jan. 11, 1919); A Song before Sunrise for Small Orch. (1918; London, Sept. 19, 1923); Poem of Life and Love (1918); Cello Concerto (1920–21; Frankfurt am Main, Jan. 30, 1921); A Song of Summer (1929–30; London, Sept. 7,1931); Caprice and Elegy for Cello and Chamber Orch. (1930); Irmelin Prelude (1931; London, Sept. 23, 1935); Fantastic Dance (1931; London, Jan. 12, 1934). CHAMBERS string quartets: No. 1 (1888; unfinished) and No. 2 (original version in 3 movements, London, Nov. 17, 1916; rev. version in 4 movements, London, Feb. 1, 1919); Romance for Violin and Piano (1889); Violin Sonata in B major (1892; private perf., Paris, 1893); 3 numbered violin sonatas: No. 1 (1905,1914; Manchester, Feb. 24, 1915), No. 2 (1923; London, Oct. 7, 1924), and No. 3 (London, Nov. 6,1930); Romance for Cello and Piano (1896; Helsinki, June 22, 1976); Cello Sonata (1916; London, Oct. 31,1918); Dance for Harpsichord (1919). PIANO : Zum Carnival Polka (1885); Pénsees mélodieuses (1885); Valse and Rêverie (1889–90; unfinished); Badinage (1895?); 5 Pieces (1922–23); 3 Preludes (1923; London, Sept. 4, 1924). VOCAL: 6 German Partsongs for Chorus (1885–87); Paa vidderne (On the Heights) for Reciter and Orch., after Ibsen (1888; Norwegian TV, Oslo, May 17, 1983); Sakuntala for Tenor and Orch. (1889); Twilight Fancies for Voice and Piano (1889; orchestrated 1908; Liverpool, March 21, 1908); The Bird’s Story for Voice and Piano (1889; orchestrated 1908; Liverpool, March 21, 1908); Maud, 5 songs for Tenor and Orch., after Tennyson (1891); 2 songs for Voice and Piano, after Verlaine (1895; later orchestrated); 7 Danish Songs for Voice and Orch. or Piano (1897; 5 songs, London, March 30, 1899); Mitternachtslied Zarathustras for Baritone, Men’s Chorus, and Orch., after Nietzsche (1898; London, May 30, 1899); The Violet for Voice and Piano (1900; orchestrated 1908; Liverpool, March 21, 1908); Summer Landscape for Voice and Piano (1902; orchestrated 1903); Appalachia: Variations on an Old Slave Song for Baritone, Chorus, and Orch. (1902–03; Elberfeld, Oct. 15, 1904; rev. of Appalachia: American Rhapsody for Orch., 1896; London, Dec. 10, 1986); Sea Drift for Baritone, Chorus, and Orch., after Whitman (1903–04; Essen, May 24, 1906); A Mass of Life for Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Baritone, Chorus, and Orch., after Nietzsche’s Also sprach Zarathustra (1904–05; partial perf., Munich, June 4, 1908; complete perf., London, June 7, 1909); Songs of Sunset for Mezzo-soprano, Baritone, Chorus, and Orch., afterE. Dowson (1906–07; London, June 16, 1911); Cynara for Baritone and Orch. (1907, 1929; London, Oct. 18, 1929); On Craig Ddu for Chorus (1907; Blackpool, 1910); Wanderer’s Song for Men’s Chorus (1908); Midsummer Song for Chorus (1908); La Lune blanche for Voice and Orch. or Piano, after Verlaine (1910); An Arabesque for Baritone, Chorus, and Orch. (1911; Newport, Monmouthshire, May 28, 1920); The Song of the High Hills for Wordless Chorus and Orch. (1911–12; London, Feb. 26,1920); 2 Songs for Children (1913); I-Brasil for Voice and Orch. or Piano (1913; Westminster, Nov. 21, 1946); Requiem for Soprano, Baritone, Chorus, and Orch. (1913–14; London, March 23, 1922); To Be Sung of a Summer Night on the Water, 2 songs for Wordless Chorus (1917; London, June 28, 1921); The splendour falls on castle walls for Chorus, after Tennyson (1923; London, June 17, 1924); A Late Lark for Tenor and Orch. (1924, 1929; London, Oct. 12, 1929); Songs of Farewell for Chorus and Orch., after Whitman (1930; London, March 21, 1932); Idyll: Once I passed through a populous city for Soprano, Baritone, and Orch., after Whitman (1932; London, Oct. 3, 1933; based on Margot la Rouge). Sol o S o n g s : Over the Mountains High (1885); Zwei braune Augen (1885); Der Fichtenbaum (1886); 5 Songs from the Norwegian: Slumber Song, The Nightingale, Summer Eve, Longing, and Sunset (1888); Hochgebirgsleben (1888); O schneller, mein Ross (1888); Chanson de Fortunio (1889); 7 Songs from the Norwegian: Cradle Song, The Homeward Journey, Evening Voices, Sweet Venevil, Minstrel, Love Concealed, and The Bird’s Story (1889–90; Nos. 3 and 7 orchestrated); Skogen gir susende, langsom besked (1890–91); 4 Songs, after Heine: Mit deinen blauen Augen, Ein schoner Stern, Ho’r’ ich das Liedchen klingen, and Aus deinen Augen (1890–91); 3 Songs, after Shelley: Indian Love Song, Love’s Philosophy, and To the Queen of My Heart (1891); Lyse Naetter (1891); Jeg havde en nyskaare Seljefljte (1892–93); Nuages (1893); 2 Songs, after Verlaine: // pleure dans mon coeur and Le del est, pardessus le toit (1895; also orchestrated); The page sat in the lofty tower (1895?); 7 Danish Songs: Summer Nights, Through Long, Long Years, Wine Roses, Let Springtime Come, Irmelin Rose, In the Seraglio Garden, and Silken Shoes (1896–97; also orchestrated); Traum Rosen (1898?); Im Cluck wir lachend gingen (1898?); 4 Songs, after Nietzsche: Nach neuen Meeren, Der Wanderer, Der Einsame, and Der Wanderer und sein Schatten (1898); The Violet (1900; also orchestrated); Autumn (1900); Black Roses (1901); Jeg hrer i Natten (1901); Summer Landscape (1902; also orchestrated); The nightin-gale has a lyre of gold (1910); La Lune blanche, after Verlaine (1910; also orchestrated); Chanson d’automne, after Verlaine (1911); I-Brasil (1913; also orchestrated); 4 Old English Lyrics: It was a lover and his lass, So white, so soft is she, Spring, the sweet spring, and To Daffodile (1915–16); Avant que tu ne t’en ailles, after Verlaine (1919, 1932).


P. Heseltine, F. D. (London, 1923; 2nd ed., rev., 1952);R. Hull, F. D. (London, 1928); C. Delius, F. D., Memories of My Brother (London, 1935); E. Fenby, D. as I Knew Him (London, 1936; 3rd ed., 1966); A. Hutchings, D., A Critical Biography (London, 1948); T. Beecham, F. D. (London, 1959; 2nd ed., rev., 1975); G. Jahoda, The Road to Samarkand: F. D. and His Music (N.Y., 1969); E. Fenby, D. (London, 1971); L. Carley and R. Threlfall, D. and America (London, 1972); A. Jefferson, D. (London, 1972); R. Lowe, F. D., 1862–1934; A Catalogue of the Music Archives of the D. Trust, London (London, 1974); L. Carley, D.: The Paris Years (London, 1975); C. Palmer, D.: Portrait of a Cosmopolitan (London, 1976); C. Redwood, ed., A D. Companion (London, 1976; 2nd ed., 1980); L. Carley and R. Threlfall, D.: A Life in Pictures (London, 1977; 2nd ed., 1984); R. Threlfall, F. D. (1862–1934): A Catalogue of the Compositions (London, 1977); C. Redwood, Flecker and D.: The Making of “Hassan” (London, 1978); L. Carley, D.: A Life in Letters: vol. I, 1862–1908 (London, 1983; Cambridge, Mass., 1984) and vol. II, 1909–1934 (Alder-shot, 1988); D. 1862–1934 (50th anniversary brochure by the D. Trust, London, 1984); R. Threlfall, F. D.: A Supplementary Catalogue (London, 1986); P. Jones, The American Source of D.’ Style (N.Y., 1989); L. Carley, ed., Grieg and D.: A Chronicle of their Friendship in Letters (N.Y., 1993).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire