BRINGING UNKNOWN DELIUS ORCHESTRAL WORKS TO
A UNIQUE INTERNATIONAL COLLABORATION:
Yu Nakajima (Japan) and Bill Thompson (USA)
The work in question is "Legendes for Piano and Orchestra" by English
composer Frederick Delius (1862-1934). Delius
gained musical inspiration from the two years he spent in the lush
tropics of Florida during the 1880's, and he became well-known for his
works inspired by the beauty of nature. Delius
started "Legendes" in 1890, but left it unfinished. The
work was published in a reduced format in 1997, but had never been
performed or recorded.
Enter Bill Thompson of Texas, a CPA and controller by day and amateur
musician and computer hobbyist by night. Thompson, a long-time
student of Delius' music and webmaster of a leading Delius website,
believed that "Legendes" deserved to be heard. He tackled
the project of painstakingly entering each note of the music into the
computer so that it could be heard in the MIDI format.
"MIDI turns your computer into an orchestral player piano. The
sound of each instrument is simulated, so that the finished product
gives you an idea of how the music would sound as played by the full
Based on the notations in the reduced score, Thompson assigned the
parts to the various instruments. Although the work was
unfinished, Thompson resisted the temptation to add anything to the
score. "The manuscript just comes to stop at the end of a
section. The actual conclusion was never added. Also, it is
obvious in some sections that Delius left either the piano part or the
orchestra part unwritten." But Thompson felt that Delius fans
would want to hear it just as Delius had left it.
Using the MIDI keyboard cabled to his PC, Thompson completed his MIDI
version in February 2000. But he was not completely happy with
the sound. "A MIDI file sounds different on every computer it is
played on. Every sound card produces a little different sound, so
I really had no control over how good or bad "Legendes" would sound on
their computer speakers. Also, my current computer setup is not
the greatest, so I was not able add in all the nuances of loudness and
softness that the music needed."
Enter Yu Nakajima of Japan, university administrator and MIDI
enthusiast. "A mutual internet friend sent me a CD of
Delius' music which was produced by Yu Nakajima using enhanced MIDI
files. I was really bowled over by the incredibly realistic
orchestral sound he had achieved," said Thompson.
The two Delius fans made contact via e-mail. "Thankfully Yu can
communicate in English, because my Japanese is nonexistent!" says
Thompson. Nakajima informed Thompson of his MIDI methods.
With superior hardware and software, Nakajima was able to produce MIDI
files that included all the dynamics from pianissimo to
fortissimo. In addition, each instrument sounded very much
like the real thing. As a final step, Nakajima converted his MIDI
file into an MP3 file, "locking in" the sound so that it would sound
exactly the same on any computer. His website is called "The Desktop
Thompson offered his MIDI file of "Legendes" to Nakajima, asking if he
would be willing to enhance it using his superior system. The
answer was yes - in fact Nakajima already had a copy of the
score! A few weeks later, the project was nearing
The final question became: how to end the piece? As it stood, the
orchestra alone ended on a final quiet chord, but Thompson and Nakajima
agreed that the piece should have a big finish featuring the
piano. Nakajima hit upon the solution: the final orchestra chord
was in the same key as the beginning of the work, so the first section
was repeated for the finale. Thompson recommended a big crescendo
to the final chord. This final sequence was the only addition to
what Delius had written, and was based on the sound of how Delius had
concluded several other similar works from his early years.
The completed MP3 file was posted on Nakajima's website in March 2001,
giving music lovers around the world the opportunity to hear "Legendes"
by Frederick Delius in its first (and probably only) performance in
digital orchestral sound. The piece was recognized in
2001 by the "Nifty" Internet Service in Japan as the most popular
download from its servers.
Thompson and Nakajima went on to produce a rendering of the
previously unheard third movement of Delius' early Piano
Concerto. "This was a major undertaking, requiring untold
hours of keyboard input," Thompson said. The two musicians are
currently working on another unfinished Delius work, the Rhapsodic
Variations for Large Orchestra. They hope to complete
enough music for a full CD release of unknown Delius works.
According to Thompson, "all the hard work seems worth it when you hear
a piece of unknown music for the first time in full orchestral
sound. There is so much buried musical treasure that deserves a
hearing, and modern technology makes it possible."
To date, Nakajima and Thompson have collaborated
on creating MIDI/MP3 recordings of the following Delius works:
Petite Suite No. 1
Petite Suite No. 2
Legendes for Piano and Orchestra
3rd movement of Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (Original Version)
to the MIDI Page
Back to the Delius Page