(Compiled by Bill Thompson)

C.W. ORR (1934)

That this man, blind and paralyzed, the face shrunken and withered, the body wasted to a pitiful mask, should have so far overcome these heartrending disabilities as to continue to compose, is surely one of the most heroic manifestations of a brave soul's defiance of fate that the world has seen.  1


His best work may be called purely musical in that its effect is not really dependent on any superficial realism or empty formalism. All that one can do is to attempt some appreciation of that rare emotional quality, half melancholy, half contented, at one moment a reflection of the strange, inhuman beauty of elemental nature, the next moment a poignant expression of the transience of human emotion, which is the dominant characteristic of Delius' art.  2

So much of his music has an almost unbearable melancholy and nostalgia, yet the mood cannot be described as pessimistic.  3

There is a vein of sensuous beauty which runs through even his most tragic moments and saves them from bleakness or austerity.  4

With Delius the human passion and its background of elemental nature are inextricably woven.  5


Nearly all of Delius' music recollects emotion in tranquillity.  6

Delius is always reminding us that beauty is born by contemplation after the event.  7

In an age when most of the arts have little to do with beauty, but have apparently been overwhelmed by the complexity, the cynicism, and even the hastiness and noise of modern civilization - in this age Delius has made for us a music which is serene and never unbeautiful.  8



Delius tells us that life is beautiful and brief and bitter and surrounded by mystery, that the beauty of the mystery is unfathomable and that we would do well to accept the mystery, first because, if we don't, we shall lose some of the beauty and second, because it is becoming to human dignity to face with quiet resolution the inevitable condition of any human happiness whatever.  9



The music of Delius belongs essentially to the same phase of romanticism as the art of Flaubert, Gaugin, Verlaine, and Baudelaire.   They are alike possessed by the nostalgia of the infinite and the unappeasable longing for an impossible bliss.


"The state of illumination" is a kind of ecstatic revelation which may only last for a split second of time, but which he who has known it spends the rest of his life trying to recapture. (For Delius) the occasion was one summer night, when he was sitting out on the verandah of his house in his orange grove in Florida, and the sound came to him from the near distance of the voices of the negroes in the plantation, singing in chorus. It is the rapture of this moment that Delius is perpetually seeking to communicate in all his most characteristic work.   10

He lives, and will continue to live, by virtue of exquisite passages of almost unendurable sweetness and poignancy, in which he succeeds in recapturing that moment of ecstasy experienced in his youth.  11



Delius' music is the philosophy of a man who found life brief, bitter but beautiful.

(Delius) was never lulled by the fashionable complacency endemic in certain species of artists, nor by the security of acceptability of long-tried, oft-used conventions of syntax.

He asked questions all the time and judged the answers by what experience had taught him, not by what had been instilled into him from birth.

He held the musical Establishment and academic respectability in music in the highest contempt; he adapted the techniques of musical composition to his own ends, knowing precisely what he was doing - and as to the validity and durability of what he did, posterity has already been the judge.  

He made no parade of technical knowledge, but he knew, and it no doubt amused him to hear people with no inside experience of his scores describe him as a dilettante and an 'amateur'.   But in fact he was one of the most 'professional' musicians who ever lived, and certainly one of the most musical.

Delius had no home.  His whole life was affected by an uprootedness, a yearning insecurity.   Yet it was this very uprootedness, this isolation, this forced cosmopolitanism, which bred in him so rich and vital a creative personality - and hence the whole man, Frederick Delius, and his music, which is like no other in the world.  12


Almost every facet of nature is to be found in Delius' poetry, an extraordinarily wide range in fact -

·  the magistral everlasting song of the hills and the rivers,

·  the breath of the woods at dawn,

·  the wonder of an early summer morning,

·  the green world of the leaves,

·  the mystic hush of noontide,

·  scents of the summer night,

·  the red ceremony of sunset,

·  a white winter world,

·  the yearly miracle of spring -

all the endless melody, harmony and rhythm of the earth.  13

The value of his legacy lies not merely in its great glory as art per se, but in its ability to stir its recipients to some hazy awareness of their own latent imaginative powers and to an eventual realization that, the longer and the better they live in Delius and all other fine music, the more their awareness of the wonder of the world will be increased, the more grateful they will be for the privilege of being alive.  14

Frederick Delius belongs to the company of those true artists for whose life and work the world is a better place to live in.  15


ERIC FENBY (1948) 

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 forever 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.  16


If, following the way of the great Christian contemplatives, Delius had chosen to look aloft, he would have brought heaven to earth, for, constructing music as he did by feeling alone within the structure of his particular sense of form, and with his delicate touch and refinement, he would have been the perfect composer for those long flights of musical felicity which none have attempted, yet which I pray I may hear from some composer ere I die. Such music, when it comes, will be the music of Eternal Life.  17

Music is of all the arts the one and only art that can give expression to the mystery of heavenly things, the one language in which the inexpressible is expressible. The creation of the kind of music that I am trying to define, and in which Delius would have excelled, would demand rare qualities of mind and disposition in the soul of the creator.  18

To write true music a man must be that rare thing, a true artist. No artist of any age was more worthy of that epithet than Frederick Delius. The best of what he was still lives for our delight. So long as the noble art of music is held in reverence, so long will his music be played. His was true music, the glory of a great and imperishable name.  19



I cannot do other than regard him as the last great apostle in our time of romance, emotion and beauty in music.  20



1) A Delius Companion, Christopher Redwood, ed.(John Calder, 1980), p. 63

2) Ibid., p. 75

3) Ibid., p. 77

4) Ibid., p. 77

5) Ibid., p. 76

6) Ibid., p. 89

7) Ibid., p. 90

8) Ibid., p. 91

9) Ibid., p. 115

10) Ibid., p. 140

11) Ibid., p. 140

12) Christopher Palmer, Delius: Portrait of a Cosmopolitan (Duckworth, 1976), pp. x-xi

13) Ibid., p. 191

14) Ibid., p. 193

15) Ibid., p. 193

16) Eric Fenby, Delius As I Knew Him (G. Bell & Sons, 1981), p. 208

17) Ibid., p. 172

18) Ibid., p. 173

19) Ibid., p. 211

20) Sir Thomas Beecham, Frederick Delius (Alfred Knopf, 1959), p. 221

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