Boosey and Hawkes
Fritz Theodore Albert Delius
Life and times:
Born Bradford, 29 January 1862. Died Grez-sur-Loing, France, 10 June 1934.
English (of German descent). But he left Britain early and his music was almost unknown here before Delius's mid-forties.
An uninspiring boyhood?
No academic genius, Delius entered the family wool company on leaving school but was ill-suited to the work . . .
A bit of a black sheep?
Perhaps the sheer boredom got to him. In 1884 he persuaded his father to lend him money to set up as an orange grower in Solano Grove, Florida.
A fruitful period?
The luxuriant natural surroundings and the music of the black plantation workers were formative influences on Delius's artistic sensibility. And he received intensive musical training from his friend Thomas Ward. But the oranges did not flourish.
In addition to the two years he spent in America, Delius visited Norway and France with the family firm, and established lifelong artistic and personal ties to both countries. After he returned to Europe to the Leipzig Conservatory, the Norwegian composer Grieg persuaded Delius's father to support his son as a composer in Paris.
Success at last?
Delius led a bohemian existence, moving in artistic circles with Paul Gaugin, Edvard Munch and August Strindberg. His style took a long time to ripen, but his first masterpiece, Paris, 1899, acknowledged his debt to the city. In 1897 Delius settled with his future wife in Grez-sur-Loing, a small village outside Paris.
To live out his years in peace and contentment . . .
The introspective composer was free to devote himself to his work, and his fame steadily increased abroad. But Delius's health went into a gradual decline as a result of syphilis probably contracted in Florida, which resulted in creeping blindness and paralysis.
Often refined and sensuous, with an emphasis on harmonic subtlety rather than big tunes.
Listen out for:
Songs of Farewell, which Delius composed when blind and paralysed, with the help of his English scribe Eric Fenby, who also conducts them in Friday's programme; On Hearing the First Cuckoo of Spring.
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