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Frederick Delius

January 29, 1862 - June 10, 1934
born in Bradford, Yorkshire, England, composed during the Romantic period
Frederick Delius was an English composer who forged a unique version of the Impressionist musical language of the early twentieth century. He was born in Bradford, England, in 1862, and died in Grez-sur-Loing, France, in 1934. He did not come from a musical family; rather, his father owned a wool company and hoped that his son would follow a career in business. Delius, however, wanted to study music, and though his father did not approve of music as a profession, he did not discourage music-making as a pastime; thus, Delius was allowed to study the violin and the piano. To his father's dismay, he also spent much of his youth sneaking away from school to attend concerts and opera performances. When he completed school, he went to work for his father in the family business. In 1884, he left England for Florida, where he worked on a plantation as an orange grower. While in Florida, he began studying music with Thomas Ward, a musician and teacher from Jacksonville. Delius proved to be a failure as an orange grower, and began supporting himself as a musician. In 1886, his father arranged for him to spend a year and a half studying music in Germany at the Leipzig Conservatory. Though Delius would later insist that he learned very little of importance during his stay in Leipzig, it was there that he met Grieg, with whom he forged a lifelong friendship. Grieg convinced Delius' father to allow the young man to become a composer, and Delius, with the support of his formerly reluctant father, soon moved to Paris and began living the life of an artist.

Once in Paris, Delius began composing in earnest, and towards the end of the nineteenth century had already completed two operas, Irmelin and The Magic Fountain. In the first decade of the twentieth century, Delius married the painter Jelka Rosen and produced a number of important works, including the opera A Village Romeo and Juliet, the large-scale choral works Appalachia and A Mass of Life (based on the writings of Nietzsche), a piano concerto, and a number of songs and chamber pieces. His music was well-received throughout Europe, and Delius was quite successful up until World War I, when he was forced to leave France for England. Despite his renown in continental Europe, Delius was virtually unknown in his native England, and his stay there was marred by financial difficulties. After the war, Delius returned to France, where the syphilis he had contracted in Florida gradually caused him to become paralyzed and blind. Ironically, as Delius became increasingly infirm, his fame began to spread. This was due in large part to the efforts of English composer Sir Thomas Beecham, who championed Delius' music and organized a Delius Festival in 1929. Though terribly ill, Delius nonetheless still wanted to compose, and in 1928 enlisted the services of English musician Eric Fenby, to whom he dictated music (Fenby would later write a book about Delius). Towards the end of his life, Delius was made Companion of Honor by King George V of England, and was awarded an honorary degree in music by Oxford University. Before his death, Delius was able to hear his music over the radio and on record, but these accomplishments paled before the terrible deterioration of his health, and he died in seclusion. ~ Alexander Carpenter, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Delius: A Village Romeo and Juliet

Disc 1
Title: A Village Romeo & Juliet, Lyric Drama, RT I/6
Disc 2
x

Track List: Delius: Orchestral Works

Disc 1
Title: Brigg Fair (An English Rhapsody), For Orchestra, RT Vi/16
Title: In A Summer Garden, Rhapsody For Orchestra, Rt Vi/17
Title: Appalachia (Variations On An Old Slave Song), For Baritone, Chorus & Orchestra, RT Ii/2
Disc 2
Title: Pieces (2) For Small Orchestra, RT Vi/19
Title: A Song Before Sunrise, For Small Orchestra, RT Vi/24
Title: Hassan, Incidental Music, RT I/9
Title: La Calinda, For Orchestra (arrangement By Fenby Of The Dance From Act 2 Of Koanga)
Title: Late Swallows, For Strings (arr. By Fenby From The 3rd Movement Of String Quartet No. 2)
Title: Fennimore And Gerda Intermezzo, For Orchestra (arr. By Fenby From Interludes From Opera "Fennimore And Gerda")
Title: The Walk To The Paradise Garden, For Orchestra (Interlude From "A Village Romeo & Juliet")
Title: Irmelin, Prelude For Orchestra, RT Vi/27
Title: A Song Of Summer, For Orchestra, RT Vi/26
x

Track List: Delius: Orchestral Works

Disc 1
Title: Brigg Fair (An English Rhapsody), For Orchestra, RT Vi/16
Title: In A Summer Garden, Rhapsody For Orchestra, Rt Vi/17
Title: The Walk To The Paradise Garden, For Orchestra (Interlude From "A Village Romeo & Juliet")
Title: North Country Sketches, For Orchestra, RT Vi/20
Disc 2
Title: Florida, Suite For Orchestra, RT Vi/1
Title: Aquarelles (2), For Strings (arr. By Fenby From 2 Songs "to Be Sung On A Summer Night")
Title: On Hearing The First Cuckoo In Spring, Tone Poem For Orchestra (Pieces For Small Orchestra, No. 1), RT Vi/19/1
Title: Summer Night On The River, Tone Poem For Orchestra (Pieces For Small Orchestra, No. 2), Rt Vi/19/2
Title: A Dance Rhapsody (No. 2), For Orchestra, RT Vi/22
Title: A Dance Rhapsody (No. 1), For Orchestra, RT Vi/18
x

Track List: Delius: Sea Drift/Songs of Farewell/Songs of Sunset

Title: Sea Drift, For Baritone, Chorus & Orchestra, RT Ii/3
Title: Songs Of Farewell, For Double Chorus & Orchestra, RT Ii/9
Title: Songs Of Sunset, For Mezzo-soprano, Baritone, Chorus & Orchestra, RT Ii/5
x

Track List: Frederick Delius: Paris; The Walk to the Paradise Garden; In a Summer Garden; etc.

Comments

keith6116
Sublime... that's the only word I can come up with to describe many of Delius' works... but the best is Late Swallows. Call me a sentimental sap, but some of those chords and phrases just break your heart.
carolgwood
What a great biography. I'd love to see similar bios for your other composers.
dlsqbinder
His Florida Suite takes me right back there, except to the Old Florida, not the Disney version.
"Late Swallows" is just about the most heartbreakin g l y beautiful classical song ever written, beside's Pavane for a Dead Princess... just a masterpiece.
lexluthier49 1
Without Delius there is no Gershwin.
I discovered Delius through the Ken Russell biography. Such sweet music from a thoroughly disagreeable and Nietsche justified egotist.Perc y Grainger an even more interesting and eccentric man was a good friend of his
Raymond Richard Neutra
Delius's music is accessible and pleasant. Occasionally a bit too obvious, but still always enjoyable when one is not in too demanding a state of mind. I put his works alongside those of Gustav Holst, Ralph Vaughn Williams and other favorites of their type. Not on a par with the great geniuses of composition, but a fine, entertaining composer who created many evocative works.
brienpalmer
I stumbled on him. Its great hearing somebody new (and not heard in the background before not realizing it.) He puts me right outdoors in a contemplativ e mood.
joseph.d.sim s
I heard a recording on cassette of 'Hassan' by F. Delius and I thought it was really great. I ended up getting a box set with that recording and Elgars 'The Starlight Express', also a good recording.
I came to Delius through the French impressionis t composers, especially Debussy. When I am in a contemplativ e mood, his music evokes in me images of a simpler and happier time and place.
Delius is one of my all-time favorite composers.

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