|Birth Day:||January 29, 1862|
|Death Date:||June 10, 1934|
|Birth Place:||Bradford, British|
|Height:||in centimeters - N/A|
|Weight:||in kg - N/A|
As per our current Database, Frederick Delius died on June 10, 1934.
While in Florida, Delius had his first composition published, a polka for piano called Zum Carnival. In late 1885 he left a caretaker in charge of Solano Grove and moved to Danville, Virginia. Thereafter he pursued a wholly musical career. An advertisement in the local paper announced, "Fritz Delius will begin at once giving instruction in Piano, Violin, Theory and Composition. He will give lessons at the residences of his pupils. Terms reasonable." Delius also offered lessons in French and German. Danville had a thriving musical life, and early works of his were publicly performed there.
In 1886, Julius Delius finally agreed to allow his son to pursue a musical career, and paid for him to study music formally. Delius left Danville and returned to Europe via New York, where he paused briefly to give a few lessons. Back in Europe he enrolled at the conservatoire in Leipzig, Germany. Leipzig was a major musical centre, where Arthur Nikisch and Gustav Mahler were conductors at the Opera House, and Johannes Brahms and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky conducted their works at the Gewandhaus. At the conservatoire, Delius made little progress in his piano studies under Carl Reinecke, but Salomon Jadassohn praised his hard work and grasp of counterpoint; Delius also resumed studies under Hans Sitt. Delius's early biographer, the composer Patrick Hadley, observed that no trace of his academic tuition can be found in Delius's mature music "except in certain of the weaker passages". Much more important to Delius's development was meeting the composer Edvard Grieg in Leipzig. Grieg, like Ward before him, recognised Delius's potential. In the spring of 1888, Sitt conducted Delius's Florida Suite for an audience of three: Grieg, Christian Sinding and the composer. Grieg and Sinding were enthusiastic and became warm supporters of Delius. At a dinner party in London in April 1888, Grieg finally convinced Julius Delius that his son's future lay in music.
After leaving Leipzig in 1888, Delius moved to Paris where his uncle, Theodore, took him under his wing and looked after him socially and financially. Over the next eight years, Delius befriended many writers and artists, including August Strindberg, Edvard Munch and Paul Gauguin. He mixed very little with French musicians, although Florent Schmitt arranged the piano scores of Delius's first two operas, Irmelin and The Magic Fountain (Ravel later did the same for his verismo opera Margot la rouge). As a result, his music never became widely known in France. Delius's biographer Diana McVeagh says of these years that Delius "was found to be attractive, warm-hearted, spontaneous, and amorous." It is generally believed that during this period he contracted the syphilis that caused the collapse of his health in later years.
Delius's Paris years were musically productive. His symphonic poem Paa Vidderne was performed in Christiania in 1891 and in Monte Carlo in 1894; Gunnar Heiberg commissioned Delius to provide incidental music for his play Folkeraadet in 1897; and Delius's second opera, The Magic Fountain, was accepted for staging at Prague, but the project fell through for unknown reasons. Other works of the period were the fantasy overture Over the Hills and Far Away (1895–97) and orchestral variations, Appalachia: Variations on an Old Slave Song (1896, rewritten in 1904 for voices and orchestra).
Recognition came late to Delius; before 1899, when he was already 37, his works were largely unpublished and unknown to the public. When the symphonic poem Paa Vidderne was performed at Monte Carlo on 25 February 1894 in a programme of works from British composers, The Musical Times listed the composers as "... Balfe, Mackenzie, Oakeley, Sullivan ... and one Delius, whoever he may be". The work was well received in Monte Carlo, and brought the composer a congratulatory letter from Princess Alice of Monaco, but this did not lead to demands for further performances of this or other Delius works. Some of his individual songs (he wrote more than 60) were occasionally included in vocal recitals; referring to "the strange songs of Fritz Delius", The Times critic expressed regret "that the powers the composer undoubtedly possesses should not be turned to better account or undergo proper development at the hands of some musician competent to train them".
In 1897, Delius met the German artist Jelka Rosen, who later became his wife. She was a professional painter, a friend of Auguste Rodin, and a regular exhibitor at the Salon des Indépendants. Jelka quickly declared her admiration for the young composer's music, and the couple were drawn closer together by a shared passion for the works of the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and the music of Grieg. Jelka bought a house in Grez-sur-Loing, a village 40 miles (64 km) outside Paris on the edge of Fontainebleau. Delius visited her there, and after a brief return visit to Florida, he moved in with her.
In the same year, Delius began a fruitful association with German supporters of his music, the conductors Hans Haym, Fritz Cassirer and Alfred Hertz at Elberfeld, and Julius Buths at Düsseldorf. Haym conducted Over the Hills and Far Away, which he gave under its German title Über die Berge in die Ferne on 13 November 1897, believed to be the first time Delius's music was heard in Germany. In 1899 Hertz gave a Delius concert in St. James's Hall in London, which included Over the Hills and Far Away, a choral piece, Mitternachtslied, and excerpts from the opera Koanga. This occasion was an unusual opportunity for an unknown composer at a time when any sort of orchestral concert was a rare event in London. In spite of encouraging reviews, Delius's orchestral music was not heard again in an English concert hall until 1907.
The orchestral work Paris: The Song of a Great City was composed in 1899 and dedicated to Haym. He gave the premiere at Elberfeld on 14 December 1901. It provoked some critical comment from the local newspaper, which complained that the composer put his listeners on a bus and shuttled them from one Parisian night-spot to another, "but he does not let us hear the tuneful gypsy melodies in the boulevard cafés, always just cymbals and tambourine and mostly from two cabarets at the same time at that". The work was given under Busoni in Berlin less than a year later.
According to Palmer, it is arguable that Delius gained his sense of direction as a composer from his French contemporary Claude Debussy. Palmer identifies aesthetic similarities between the two, and points to several parallel characteristics and enthusiasms. Both were inspired early in their careers by Grieg, both admired Chopin; they are also linked in their musical depictions of the sea, and in their uses of the wordless voice. The opening of Brigg Fair is described by Palmer as "perhaps the most Debussian moment in Delius". Debussy, in a review of Delius's Two Danish Songs for soprano and orchestra given in a concert on 16 March 1901, wrote: "They are very sweet, very pale—music to soothe convalescents in well-to-do neighbourhoods". Delius admired the French composer's orchestration, but thought his works lacking in melody—the latter a comment frequently directed against Delius's own music. Fenby, however, draws attention to Delius's "flights of melodic poetic-prose", while conceding that the composer was contemptuous of public taste, of "giving the public what they wanted" in the form of pretty tunes.
In 1903 they married, and, apart from a short period when the area was threatened by the advancing German army during the First World War, Delius lived in Grez for the rest of his life. The marriage was not conventional: Jelka was, at first, the principal earner; there were no children; and Delius was not a faithful husband. Jelka was often distressed by his affairs, but her devotion did not waver.
Most of Delius's premieres of this period were given by Haym and his fellow German conductors. In 1904 Cassirer premiered Koanga, and in the same year the Piano Concerto was given in Elberfeld, and Lebenstanz in Düsseldorf. Appalachia (choral orchestral variations on an old slave song, also inspired by Florida) followed there in 1905. Sea Drift (a cantata with words taken from a poem by Walt Whitman) was premiered at Essen in 1906, and the opera A Village Romeo and Juliet in Berlin in 1907. Delius's reputation in Germany remained high until the First World War; in 1910 his rhapsody Brigg Fair was given by 36 different German orchestras.
By 1907, thanks to performances of his works in many German cities, Delius was, as Thomas Beecham said, "floating safely on a wave of prosperity which increased as the year went on". Henry Wood premiered the revised version of Delius's Piano Concerto that year. Also in 1907, Cassirer conducted some concerts in London, at one of which, with Beecham's New Symphony Orchestra, he presented Appalachia. Beecham, who had until then had heard not a note of Delius's music, expressed his "wonderment" and became a lifelong devotee of the composer's works. In January 1908, he conducted the British premiere of Paris: The Song of a Great City. Later that year, Beecham introduced Brigg Fair to London audiences, and Enrique Fernández Arbós presented Lebenstanz.
In England, a performance of the Piano Concerto on 22 October 1907 at the Queen's Hall was praised for the brilliance of the soloist, Theodor Szántó, and for the power of the music itself. From that point onwards the music of Delius became increasingly familiar to both British and European audiences, as performances of his works proliferated. Beecham's presentation of A Mass of Life at the Queen's Hall in June 1909 did not inspire Hans Haym, who had come from Elberfeld for the concert, though Beecham says that many professional and amateur musicians thought it "the most impressive and original achievement of its genre written in the last fifty years" Some reviewers continued to doubt the popular appeal of Delius's music, while others were more specifically hostile.
In 1909, Beecham conducted the first complete performance of A Mass of Life, the largest and most ambitious of Delius's concert works, written for four soloists, a double choir, and a large orchestra. Although the work was based on the same Nietzsche work as Richard Strauss's Also sprach Zarathustra, Delius distanced himself from the Strauss work, which he considered a complete failure. Nor was Strauss an admirer of Delius, as he was of Elgar; he told Delius that he did not wish to conduct Paris—"the symphonic development seems to me to be too scant, and it seems moreover to be an imitation of Charpentier".
In the early years of the 20th century, Delius composed some of his most popular works, including Brigg Fair (1907), In a Summer Garden (1908, revised 1911), Summer Night on the River (1911), and On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring (1912), of which McVeagh comments, "These exquisite idylls, for all their composer's German descent and French domicile, spell 'England' for most listeners." In 1910, Beecham put on an opera season at the Royal Opera House in London. Having access to the Beecham family's considerable fortune, he ignored commercial considerations and programmed several works of limited box-office appeal, including A Village Romeo and Juliet. The reviews were polite, but The Times, having praised the orchestral aspects of the score, commented, "Mr. Delius seems to have remarkably little sense of dramatic writing for the voice". Other reviewers agreed that the score contained passages of great beauty, but was ineffective as drama.
From 1910, Delius's works began to be heard in America: Brigg Fair and In a Summer Garden were performed in 1910–11 by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra under Walter Damrosch. In November 1915 Grainger gave the first American performance of the Piano Concerto, again with the New York Philharmonic. The New York Times critic described the work as uneven; richly harmonious, but combining colour and beauty with effects "of an almost crass unskillfulness and ugliness".
During the First World War, Delius and Jelka moved from Grez to avoid the hostilities. They took up temporary residence in the south of England, where Delius continued to compose. In 1915, The Musical Times published a profile of him by his admirer, the composer Philip Heseltine (known as "Peter Warlock"), who commented:
Beecham was temporarily absent from the concert hall and opera house between 1920 and 1923, but Coates gave the first performance of A Song of the High Hills in 1920, and Henry Wood and Hamilton Harty programmed Delius's music with the Queen's Hall and Hallé Orchestras. Wood gave the British première of the Double Concerto for violin and cello in 1920, and of A Song Before Sunrise and the Dance Rhapsody No. 2 in 1923. Delius had a financial and artistic success with his incidental music for James Elroy Flecker's play Hassan (1923), with 281 performances at His Majesty's Theatre. With Beecham's return the composer became, in Hadley's words, "what his most fervent admirers had never envisaged—a genuine popular success." Hadley cites, in particular, the six-day Delius festival at the Queen's Hall in 1929 under Beecham's general direction, in the presence of the composer in his bath-chair. "[T]he cream of his orchestral output with and without soli and chorus was included", and the hall was filled. Beecham was assisted in the organisation of the festival by Philip Heseltine, who wrote the detailed programme notes for three of the six concerts. The festival included chamber music and songs, an excerpt from A Village Romeo and Juliet, the Piano and Violin Concertos, and premières of Cynara and A Late Lark, concluding with A Mass of Life. The Manchester Guardian's music critic, Neville Cardus, met Delius during the festival. He describes the wreck of the composer's physique, yet "there was nothing pitiable about him ... his face was strong and disdainful, every line graven on it by intrepid living". Delius, Cardus says, spoke with a noticeable Yorkshire accent as he dismissed most English music as paper music that should never be heard, written by people "afraid of their feelin's".
One of Delius's major wartime works was his Requiem, dedicated "to the memory of all young Artists fallen in the war". The work owes nothing to the traditional Christian liturgy, eschewing notions of an afterlife and celebrating instead a pantheistic renewal of Nature. When Albert Coates presented the work in London in 1922, its atheism offended some believers. This attitude persisted long after Delius's death, as the Requiem did not receive another performance in the UK until 1965, and by 1980 had still had only seven performances world-wide. In Germany, the regular presentation of Delius's works ceased at the outbreak of the war, and never resumed. Nevertheless, his standing with some continental musicians was unaffected; Beecham records that Bartók and Kodály were admirers of Delius, and the former grew into the habit of sending his compositions to Delius for comment and tried to interest him in both Hungarian and Romanian popular music.
The first recordings of Delius's works, in 1927, were conducted by Beecham for the Columbia label: the "Walk to the Paradise Garden" interlude from A Village Romeo and Juliet, and On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring, performed by the orchestra of the Royal Philharmonic Society. These began a long series of Delius recordings under Beecham that continued for the rest of the conductor's life. He was not alone, however; Geoffrey Toye in 1929–30 recorded Brigg Fair, In a Summer Garden, Summer Night on the River and the "Walk to the Paradise Garden". Fenby recounts that on his first day in Grez, Jelka played Beecham's First Cuckoo recording. In May 1934, when Delius was close to death, Fenby played him Toye's In a Summer Garden, the last music, Fenby says, that Delius ever heard. By the end of the 1930s Beecham had issued versions for Columbia of most of the main orchestral and choral works, together with several songs in which he accompanied the soprano Dora Labbette on the piano. By 1936 Columbia and HMV had issued recordings of Violin Sonatas 1 and 2, the Elegy and Caprice, and of some of the shorter works.
After the 1929 London festival The Times music critic wrote that Delius "belongs to no school, follows no tradition and is like no other composer in the form, content or style of his music". This "extremely individual and personal idiom" was, however, the product of a long musical apprenticeship, during which the composer absorbed many influences. The earliest significant experiences in his artistic development came, Delius later asserted, from the sounds of the plantation songs carried down the river to him at Solano Grove. It was this singing, he told Fenby, that first gave him the urge to express himself in music; thus, writes Fenby, many of Delius's early works are "redolent of Negro hymnology and folk-song", a sound "not heard before in the orchestra, and seldom since". Delius's familiarity with "black" music possibly predates his American adventures; during the 1870s a popular singing group, the Fisk Jubilee Singers from Nashville, Tennessee, toured Britain and Europe, giving several well-received concerts in Bradford. When Delius wrote to Elgar in 1933 of the "beautiful four-part harmonies" of the black plantation workers, he may have been unconsciously alluding to the spirituals sung by the Fisk group.
For the rest of his lifetime Delius's more popular pieces were performed in England and abroad, often under the sponsorship of Beecham, who was primarily responsible for the Delius festival in October–November 1929. In a retrospective comment on the festival The Times critic wrote of full houses and an apparent enthusiasm for "music which hitherto has enjoyed no exceptional vogue", but wondered whether this new acceptance was based on a solid foundation. After Delius's death Beecham continued to promote his works; a second festival was held in 1946, and a third (after Beecham's death) at Bradford in 1962, to celebrate the centenary of Delius's birth. These occasions were in the face of a general indifference to the music; writing in the centenary year, the musicologist Deryck Cooke opined that at that time, "to declare oneself a confirmed Delian is hardly less self-defamatory than to admit to being an addict of cocaine and marihuana".
The four-year association with Fenby from 1929 produced two major works, and several smaller pieces often drawn from unpublished music from Delius's early career. The first of the major works was the orchestral A Song of Summer, based on sketches that Delius had previously collected under the title of A Poem of Life and Love. In dictating the new beginning of this work, Delius asked Fenby to "imagine that we are sitting on the cliffs in the heather, looking out over the sea". This does not, says Fenby, indicate that the dictation process was calm and leisurely; the mood was usually frenzied and nerve-wracking. The other major work, a setting of Walt Whitman poems with the title Songs of Farewell, was an even more alarming prospect to Fenby: "the complexity of thinking in so many strands, often all at once; the problems of orchestral and vocal balance; the wider area of possible misunderstandings ..." combined to leave Delius and his helper exhausted after each session of work—yet both these works were ready for performance in 1932. Of the music in this final choral work, Beecham wrote of its "hard, masculine vigour, reminiscent in mood and fibre of some of the great choral passages in A Mass of Life". Payne describes the work as "bracing and exultant, with in places an almost Holstian clarity".
In 1933, the year before both composers died, Elgar, who had flown to Paris to conduct a performance of his Violin Concerto, visited Delius at Grez. Delius was not on the whole an admirer of Elgar's music, but the two men took to each other, and there followed a warm correspondence until Elgar's death in February 1934. Elgar described Delius as "a poet and a visionary".
Delius died at Grez on 10 June 1934, aged 72. He had wished to be buried in his own garden, but the French authorities forbade it. His alternative wish, despite his atheism, was to be buried "in some country churchyard in the south of England, where people could place wild flowers". At this time Jelka was too ill to make the journey across the Channel, and Delius was temporarily buried in the local cemetery at Grez.
By May 1935, Jelka felt she had enough strength to undertake the crossing to attend a reburial in England. She chose St Peter's Church, Limpsfield, Surrey as the site for the grave. She sailed to England for the service, but became ill en route, and on arrival was taken to hospital in Dover and then Kensington in London, missing the reburial on 26 May. The ceremony took place at midnight; the headline in the Sunday Dispatch was "Sixty People Under Flickering Lamps In A Surrey Churchyard". The vicar offered a prayer: "May the souls of the departed through the mercy of God rest in peace." Jelka died two days later, on 28 May. She was buried in the same grave as Delius. Sir Thomas Beecham was buried in the same cemetery, a short distance away from Delius and Rosen.
Just before his death, Delius prepared a codicil to his will whereby the royalties on future performances of his music would be used to support an annual concert of works by young composers. Delius died before this provision could be legally effected; Fenby says that Beecham then persuaded Jelka in her own will to abandon the concerts idea and apply the royalties towards the editing and recording of Delius's main works. After Jelka's death in 1935 the Delius Trust was established, to supervise this task. As stipulated in Jelka's will, the Trust operated largely under Beecham's direction. After Beecham's death in 1961 advisers were appointed to assist the trustees, and in 1979 the administration of the Trust was taken over by the Musicians' Benevolent Fund. Over the years the Trust's objectives have been extended so that it can promote the music of other composers who were Delius's contemporaries. The Trust is a co-sponsor of the Royal Philharmonic Society's Composition Prize for young composers.
Full recordings of the operas were not available until after the Second World War. Once again Beecham, now with the HMV label, led the way, with A Village Romeo and Juliet in 1948, performed by the new Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus. Later versions of this work include those of Meredith Davies for EMI in 1971, Charles Mackerras for Argo in 1989, and a German-language version conducted by Klauspeter Seibel in 1995. Beecham's former protégé Norman Del Mar recorded a complete Irmelin for BBC Digital in 1985. In 1997 EMI reissued Meredith Davies's 1976 recording of Fennimore and Gerda, which Richard Hickox conducted in German the same year for Chandos. Recordings of all the major works, and of many of the individual songs, have been issued at regular intervals since the Second World War. Many of these recordings have been issued in conjunction with the Delius Society, which has prepared various discographies of Delius's recorded music.
Beecham had died in 1961, and Fenby writes that it "seemed to many then that nothing could save Delius's music from extinction", such was the conductor's unique mastery over the music. However, other conductors have continued to advocate Delius, and since the centenary year, the Delius Society has pursued the aim of "develop[ing] a greater knowledge of the life and works of Delius". The music has never become fashionable, a fact often acknowledged by promoters and critics. To suggestions that Delius's music is an "acquired taste", Fenby answers: "The music of Delius is not an acquired taste. One either likes it the moment one first hears it, or the sound of it is once and for ever distasteful to one. It is an art which will never enjoy an appeal to the many, but one which will always be loved, and dearly loved, by the few." Writing in 2004 on the 70th anniversary of Delius's death, the Guardian journalist Martin Kettle recalls Cardus arguing in 1934 that Delius as a composer was unique, both in his technique and in his emotionalism. Although he eschewed classical formalism, it was wrong, Cardus believed, to regard Delius merely as "a tone-painter, an impressionist or a maker of programme music". His music's abiding feature is, Cardus wrote, that it "recollects emotion in tranquillity ... Delius is always reminding us that beauty is born by contemplation after the event".
In 1962, enthusiasts for Delius's music who had gone to Bradford for the centenary festival formed the Delius Society; Fenby became its first president. With around 400 members, the Society is independent from the Trust, but works closely with it. Its general objectives are the furtherance of knowledge of Delius's life and works, and the encouragement of performances and recordings. In 2004, as a stimulus for young musicians to study and perform Delius's music, the Society established an annual Delius Prize competition, with a prize of £1,000 to the winner. In June 1984, at the Grand Theatre, Leeds, the Delius Trust sponsored a commemorative production of A Village Romeo and Juliet by Opera North, to mark the 50th anniversary of Delius's death.
Public interest in Delius's life was stimulated in the UK in 1968, with the showing of the Ken Russell film Song of Summer on BBC Television. The film depicted the years of the Delius–Fenby collaboration; Fenby co-scripted with Russell. Max Adrian played Delius, with Christopher Gable as Fenby and Maureen Pryor as Jelka.
In America, a small memorial to Delius stands in Solano Grove. The Delius Association of Florida has for many years organised an annual festival at Jacksonville, to mark the composer's birthday. At Jacksonville University, the Music Faculty awards an annual Delius Composition Prize. In February 2012 Delius was one of ten prominent Britons honoured by the Royal Mail in the "Britons of Distinction" stamps set.
Currently, Frederick Delius is 160 years, 9 months and 29 days old. Frederick Delius will celebrate 161st birthday on a Sunday 29th of January 2023. Below we countdown to Frederick Delius upcoming birthday.
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