Frederick Delius' HIAWATHA
Early Orchestral Work (1888)

On the title page of the manuscript Delius quotes several lines from Longfellow -

"Ye who love the haunts of Nature,
Love the sunshine of the meadow,
Love the shadow of the forest,
Love the wind among the branches,
And the rain shower and the snow storm,
And the rushing of great rivers
Through their palisades of pine trees,
And the thunder in the mountains,
Whose innumerable echoes,
Flap like eagles in their eyries."

Artwork: "Spellbound" by Hermon Adams


A performing edition of Hiawatha was published in 2008 as Supplementary Volume 6 of the Delius Collected Edition.

Thanks to Robert Threlfall for preparing this edition for publication.
It is available from Boosey and Hawkes.   Click here for more information.
Front cover     Sample page

The new performing edition of HIAWATHA was given its World Premiere concert performance on May 23, 2009 by the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by David Lloyd-Jones.   The concert took place at Dorchester Abbey as part of the English Music Festival.

Review of the concert

World Premiere CD Release (Dutton Epoch CDLX 7226)

The BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by David Lloyd-Jones

(Click here for details and ordering information)

Hiawatha by Frederick Delius (1888)

Larger picture of CD cover          Track List       

Liner Notes by Robert Threlfall

This well-chosen selection of less familiar music by Frederick Delius should be received by many as a welcome alternative to further repetitions of Cuckoo, Walk and Brigg Fair. Not only does it almost completely span the composer's working life, but four of these five works are evidently devoid of any background other than a purely musical one; the remaining item takes its present place for the first time in complete performance and recording.

If not his very first orchestral score, Hiawatha may well be numbered second in that extensive series and, like its predecessor the suite Florida, was written in Leipzig after the composer's two-year sojourn in America. It should be noted right away that its description – a tone poem after Longfellow's famous poem – is of particular interest in view of its date, which precedes the start of Richard Strauss's famous series of tone poems. Delius later copied twelve lines from the introduction of Longfellow's 'The Song of Hiawatha' on to his title page – to set the scene, as it were. He also placed further excerpts above various later sections of his score, but subsequently vigorously erased all of them except the last two (which appropriately quote from 'Hiawatha's Departure' over the closing pages). Maybe he had come to wish his music to be taken on its own terms. At some later stage he also removed groups of pages from two sections of his bound manuscript; it is not known why, nor is it known if he ever produced any rewritten pages in substitution. The work has thus remained unplayable as a whole until, with the support of the Delius Trust, the present writer recently managed to `close the gaps' by using material entirely taken from Delius's own score. If the result is somewhat shorter overall than Delius's original scheme, it may indeed be that his intention had been to compress the argument by eliminating some of the more repetitive earlier matter. Thus it became possible for Hiawatha to be published by Boosey & Hawkes in 2008 and now performed for the first time.

Hiawatha starts with a calm depiction of nature, doubtless in early morning, followed by a gradual build-up to what is obviously the main Hiawatha theme. As the climax subsides, birdcalls are heard in the woodwind, and a second melody is introduced which could depict Minnehaha, and which Delius evidently valued sufficiently to use in enhanced form in his later orchestral nocturne, Paris.  Again a climax is built-up, after which the two principal melodies are combined; a diminuendo then leads to a short pause. Next, again as in the first movement of Florida, a dance section commences which presumably refers to Hiawatha's wedding feast. This gradually increases in brilliance and vigour to an even bigger climax, which is cut off suddenly to allow a completely contrasted section to unwind, possibly referring to Hiawatha's happy life with Minnehaha.   During this, elaborate string scoring and soft brass harmonies support a long-drawn oboe solo, which merges into a short reminiscence of the various earlier melodies.   Sudden timpani strokes in broken rhythm are followed by an anguished section starting with high string tremolandi (death of Minnehaha?), which leads to the final setting of the Hiawatha motive as the hero takes his farewell into the setting sun against a rippling string background depicting the rivers and lakes.

YouTube videos of this recording:   Part 1      Part 2

Orchestral Excerpt (9:47)

Norwegian Broadcasting Orchestra conducted by Sverre Bruland

This is a recording from a 1984 Norwegian television broadcast. The orchestra performed a large portion of HIAWATHA; the first two sections are missing.   Thanks to Dr. Andrew Joseph Boyle for his efforts in bringing this recording into existence.

Here is more detail from Dr. Boyle about how this recording came about:

"FROM THE HIGH SOLITUDES" ("Bakom synger fjellet") - a production of NRK (Norwegian State Broadcasting):
The positive reception the premiere of the "Paa Vidderne" melodrama received led Gunnar Rugstad to a new insight into the importance of Delius. I managed to persuade the Music department to make a dramatized documentary about Delius' strong connections and deep love for Norway. The ambitions for the programme were considerable, but at the time the Music Dept. had little experience in making this sort of programme and limited financial resources. I wrote the manuscript and the photographer Svein Bæren was put in charge of recording it.

A couple of minutes of the "Paa Vidderne" film was used in the documentary. Of new interest was the fact that I again got the opportunity to hear Delius music for the first time: I wrote out what remained of the incomplete score and parts of "Hiawatha" and had these recorded by the The Norwegian Broadcasting Orchestra. A couple of minutes was used in the film. The conductor was Sverre Bruland. (I have read somewhere recently that I adapted and transposed the music. This is not true. I wrote the music out exactly as it is in the Delius score.) The whole film lasted about 40 minutes.

NOTE:  Click here to access excerpts from Dr. Boyle's thesis, which contains more information about HIAWATHA.

This performance is not available commercially.

HIAWATHA Orchestral Excerpt (RealAudio format: 1 MB) - hiawatha.ra

HIAWATHA Orchestral Excerpt (MP3 format: 9 MB) - hiawatha.mp3

Please E-Mail me if you have any problems accessing these files!

Themes from Hiawatha (arr. B. Thompson) in MIDI format

 This is an arrangement of the melodies from HIAWATHA as described and excerpted in "The American Sources of Delius' Style" by Philip Jones (see below) and "Delius: Portrait of a Cosmopolitan" by Christopher Palmer.  (NOTE: This arrangement was prepared prior to hearing the live orchestral excerpt above.  It has been enhanced to play on wavetable sound cards.)

An Analysis of Delius' HIAWATHA by Philip Jones

Another early work showing Delius' attempt to recreate the strong impressions made on him by his American experiences is the tone poem HIAWATHA, after Longfellow's poem.   According to the manuscript full score, it was completed in January 1888 and Beecham states it was begun in 1887, presumably after Delius had finished FLORIDA SUITE and was still under Grieg's supervision.   Unfortunately the manuscript is now incomplete with two substantial portions of the score missing.   This material must have disappeared after Beecham had finished his book, as he describes the work as being an "attempt to capture the atmosphere of wild woodland is a longish piece with two main sections of a serious and flowing character divided by a sprightly dance movement."

The first three pages of the score are all that remain of the opening, yet these are fascinating because they show how strongly the pentatonic/added sixth harmony was determining the young Delius's style.  HIAWATHA begins in A major and opens with the familiar tonic pedal then open fifth in the horns followed by the pentatonic melody in the muted violas with pentatonic semiquaver passage-work in the first violins, also muted.  The rest of the opening is missing, but the score resumes its course on page 18, and a few bars later a very strongly defined pentatonic melody emerges in the cello section in F major.  The music continues on its pentatonic way developing this melody and other associated melodies rather in the manner of FLORIDA SUITE until the score runs out before the end of the section on page 45.  The score picks up again at page 54 with what must be the middle section described by Beecham above.  This music begins clearly after the opening of this middle section with part of a melody in D major but the key soon returns to B minor, which is obviously the main key centre of this section, with the melody which certainly accords with Beecham's description of it as "a sprightly dance movement."   This is developed at some length, alternating with a bright little D major tag which turns into a cadential phrase, which seems almost a forerunner of the SONG OF THE HIGH HILLS.   The music gradually reaches a climax as the dance increases in tempo and comes to a sudden end on a chord of B minor.   The last section is slow and somewhat languorous and comes to a close with a return of the "very strongly defined pentatonic melody" first heard on page 18, this time in the form of a canon with shimmering, tremolando strings.  Above the ending Delius has written the following lines from Longfellow:

"Westward, westward Hiawatha
Sailed into the fiery sunset
Sailed into the purple vapors
Sailed into the dusk of evening.
Thus departed Hiawatha,
Hiawatha the Beloved,
In the glory of the sunset,
In the purple mists of evening."

It is frustrating that the work is now in an incomplete state for although, as Beecham says, Delius "was as yet only experimenting with that grand vehicle of sound, the full orchestra," it is a fascinating insight into the early development of his style.

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