Frederick Delius succeeded in blending the elements of singular quality with the poetic charisma, perfectly using his creative skills. This composer of German bloodline was mostly self-taught and spent most of his years of life in France. As a kid, he exhibited musical talents that attracted visitors whom he entertained with his improvisations in piano. His works were highly appreciated in Germany. During the last 25 years of his life, he was satisfied to receive recognition for his work finally in England as well. Frederick Delius while in Florida enjoyed the traditional songs of his black workers which he enjoyed sitting back in his porch within the soft essence of the oranges. This had greatly influenced his music and helped him shape his unique talents and enrich his harmonized melodies as well. Frederick Delius had the desire to express his emotions through his music, which he did by polishing them with a masterly finesse that can’t be compared with the other composers of his time.
Frederick Delius' Childhood And Early Life
Frederick Delius was born in Bradford in Yorkshire on 29 January 1862 to Julius Delius and Elise Pauline who were of Dutch origin. Frederick Delius was baptized as ‘Fritz Theodore Albert Delius’. He used his forename until he turned forty. He was the second of his fourteen siblings of whom four were boys and ten girls. Ernst Frederick Delius, Julius’s father, had served in the Napoleonic wars under Blucher. As a kid, Frederick Delius was strikingly handsome. He was a good horse rider and a cricketer as well. The Delius households were fond of music as Joseph Joachim and Carlo Alfredo Piatti often visited the family as guests and played for them. Though Frederick had an ample amount of German essence through his parents, he preferred Grieg and Chopin over Austro-German music of Beethoven and Mozart.
First Music Lessons
Frederick Delius received his first lessons on violin from Mr. Bauerkeller and advanced lessons from Mr. Haddock of Leeds. By this time, he was familiarized with violin lessons such that he could have easily been a violin teacher for his coming years. His heart felt desire was to improvise at piano. In fact it was a waltz by Chopin which was his first elated encounter with music. Frederick Delius attended the Bradford Grammar School during 1874 – 1878, with singer John Coates who was his a little older contemporary. During the years from 1878 and 1880, he attended International College at Isleworth, which was close to London, and hence it became convenient for Delius to attend opera and concerts.
Julius Delius, Frederick’s father expected his son to join him in their family business of wool and had kept persuading him constantly. Frederick Delius agreed to this and took up the career as the firm’s representative in Stroud, Gloucestershire where he had been performing quite well. When he was sent to Chemnitz for business purpose, he refused to take over his duties and instead went on trips to Germany’s major musical centers where he sought to musical lessons from Hans Sitt. Giving him another chance, his father sent him to Sweden, where he was highly influenced by the Norwegian dramatists Henrik Ibsen and Gunnar Heiberg. Thus, he could not resist himself from the interest for art which he certainly preferred over commerce. His father still did not want him to back out from the business and hence sent him to France to represent the firm, where he showed the same indifference towards business affairs and left for French Riviera. Julius repeatedly opposed his son from considering music as a profession. Finally by this time, Julius’s hopes of his son joining him in the business was beginning to decline and thus he granted his son’s wish to be sent to America, in order to manage an orange plantation, in the year 1884.
Soon Frederick bought a piano for himself and kept his musical studies going by taking theory classes from a local teacher. He also was able to learn a quite deal of singing from his black workers, enjoying the soft essence of the oranges. By around 1885, he was so confident about his music that he decided to settle in Danville, Virginia and teach music for some time. During this time, Julius Delius had given in for his son’s interests and agreed to pay for his son’s musical education. Frederick soon got himself registered as a student at the New York Conservatorium before returning to Europe during the time 1886 – 88, when he stayed in Paris for the next ten years. He also began his compositional activities and wrote the orchestra, Florida Suite, which was considered to be one of his major score during the year, 1886-87.
Evard Grieg served as a source of great influence and a friend. The circle of friends around Frederick more often consisted of painters than musicians, which included Paul Gauguin, Edvard Munch, Christian Krohg and many others. He got married to Helena Rosen who also was a German painter. He first met her in the year 1896 and got married in 1903. By around 1897, he shifted over to her place in the south of Paris, at Grez – sur – Loing where he lived for the rest of his life.
For the next quarter of the century, Frederick made major contributions one after the other in the field of music. It was unfortunate for him when during the time from 1896 and 1900, he got caught with syphilis. Towards the time of the First World War, his health deteriorated badly which worsened his eyesight and also some of his limbs became inactive.
It was during this time he happened to receive a letter from a young budding English musician named Eric Fenby. Fenby who stated that, he was extremely touched when he came to know that Frederick could no longer compose more. Thus, in return he volunteered himself to provide his services as an amanuensis. Thanks to Fenby, Frederick’s music did not have an end there and it began to develop once again. Germany was the first place that had considered him seriously and where his music was well received. During the last years of his life, his works started being highly respected in England. Delius was able to enjoy an unexpected last summer until10 June, 1934, the day he died.
Frederick Delius before his death had prepared a codicil, in which he stated that all the royalties, which he would receive on his future performances of his music, would be used to support young composers for their annual concert of works. According to Fenby, Frederick passed away before this could be provisioned and legally affected. When this could not be done, Fenby stated that Beecham had persuaded Jelka to state in her will that the royalties be employed towards the editing and recording of Delius works. Hence, this task was concisely supervised by the Delius Trust which was set up after Jelka’s death in the year 1935.
- Over the Hills and Far Away (1895)
- The Dance Goes On, tone poem for orchestra (1898)
- Paris: The Song of a Great City, nocturne for orchestra (1899)
- Life's Dance, tone poem for orchestra-revision of The Dance Goes On (1901)
- In a Summer Garden, fantasy for orchestra (1908)
- A Dance Rhapsody, No. 1 (1908)
- On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring (1912)
- A Song Before Sunrise (1918)
- A Poem of Life and Love (1918-19)
- A Song of Summer (1929)
- Fantastic Dance (1931)
- Sea Drift (Walt Whitman) (1903)
- A Mass of Life (Nietzsche) (1904-05)
- Songs of Sunset (E. Dowson) (1906-07)
- Midsummer Song, unaccompanied chorus (1908)
- Wanderers Song (A. Symons), unaccompanied male chorus (1908)
- To Be Song of a Summer Night on the Water, two unaccompanied choruses (1917)
- Songs of Farewell (Whitman) (1930)
Songs With Piano
- Three English Songs (Shelley) : Love's Philosophy, To the Queen of My Heart, Indian Love Song (1891)
- Black Roses (Jacobsen) (1901)
- The Nightingale Has a Lyre of Gold (1908)
- Two Songs for a Children's Album (1913)
- Three Songs: Spring, the sweet spring (Nashe); Daffodils (Herrick); So sweet is she (Ben Jonson) (1915)
- It Was a Lover and His Lass (Shakespeare) (1916)