Delius, Warlock and the Pianola (Player Piano)

Excerpts from
"Frederick Delius and Peter Warlock: A Friendship Revealed"
(Edited by Barry Smith)

NOTE: The following passages are taken from the correspondence between Frederick Delius and Peter Warlock (Philip Heseltine).  Their comments indicate that both men appreciated the pianola (player piano) as a means of more readily hearing piano arrangements of orchestral works, in spite of the machine's limitations.   Based on this, I believe that both would have embraced the MIDI computer format as a means of hearing unperformed works.  A MIDI file stores the instructions for a performance, much the same as a piano roll.   When a MIDI file is played on a computer, it turns the computer into an "orchestral pianola" with a much wider variety of timbres than on a regular pianola.

Heseltine to Delius, Dec. 16, 1912:
"I am having a splendid time here, all alone, with a new pianola which has just arrived.  It is an immense and endless joy to me, and is an exceedingly good machine.  I am hoping to discover that some of your music has been done for pianola, but I have not yet come across any: if there is none, I shall agitate for some from the Orchestrelle company!  I have some very interesting music at present, Moussorgsky, Grieg, MacDowell, Liszt, Chopin and others."

Heseltine to Delius, Jan. 8, 1913:
"Is there yet a piano arrangement of the 'Dance Rhapsody'?  Several people have asked me about it lately, as it has been done a good many times in London and the provinces during the last few months.  It ought to be cut for the pianola: it would be very effective....I am having great times with the pianola here, and learning a tremendous lot of new music.  It is wonderful how very quickly one gets to know an orchestral work quite thoroughly by playing it over and over again on the pianola, with the full score......If I am ever going to become a musical critic, I think it would be no bad thing if I spent several months doing nothing but making myself absolutely familiar with all the biggest works of 'classical' music by means of the pianola -- Brahms, Beethoven, Schumann etc -- the symphony writers especially.  I have three complete symphonies at present:  Brahms no 3 (which I like very much) Schumann no 2 and Elgar no 1."

Delius to Heseltine, April 24, 1914:
"I appears that the Entracte to the Village Romeo & Juliet is done for the pianolo!! Try to get it & tell me what it is like & who has published it."

Heseltine to Delius, Oct. 18, 1914:
" the very end of September -- I discovered the long-lost pianola, covered with sacking, and stowed away in an attic!!!!  I was absolutely wild with rage, when I though of all the blank and bloody days I had been spending there, and then of all that I might have learned and enjoyed from this beautiful instrument that was wasting up in the attic!"

Delius to Heseltine, Feb. 18, 1915:
"How about the pianola affair?"

Heseltine to Delius, Mar. 3, 1915:
"There have suddenly arrived - all at once - my new pianola piano, two dozen spools of new music, and - my little French girl whom I thought I had lost for ever!"

Heseltine to Delius, Dec. 12, 1918:
"I hope to have my pianola-piano here next week: you must then come round one evening and hear some music, including Van Dieren's Six pieces."

Heseltine to Delius, Sept. 26, 1919:
"If you go to Vienna and see Herzka, you would be doing a very kind action if you would mention to him those six piano pieces of Van Dieren which I played might be well to mention that they have been cut for the pianola and that copies of the rolls can be supplied."

Jelka Delius to Heseltine, Aug. 3, 1922:
"Fred received Hart's opera and the Nietzsche songs but there was no Second Dance Rhapsody arrangement with it; but Augeners sent one and Fred corrected it and we played it.  It is charming and very playable.  Dont you think all these arrangements could be put on the Pianola?  I am sure they would sound awfully well.  What steps has one to do for that?"

Jelka Delius to Heseltine, Sept. 2, 1922:
"I'll also write and ask Hertzka about your arrangements of In a Summer Garden and the First Dance Rhapsody.  But when you write again please tell me about the Pianola for all these arrangements?  Which ones would suit?  Should I approach Augeners?"

Jelka Delius to Heseltine, Sept. 13, 1925:
"Augeners do absolutely nothing, and of course the things [Delius' works to which Augeners owned the rights] are never played.  They could be put on Gramophone and Pianola -- a lot could be done to have them played on the continent etc."

1927: "For the Deliuses [1927] was largely a lonely and depressing time made bearable by the loan of a pianola and rolls, as well as music heard on the radio."

Jelka Delius to Heseltine, Sept. 30, 1929:
"Why not tackle Duo-Art [publisher of pianola rolls].  Get Howard Jones at that.  You know they are publishing a Biographic Double Roll of Delius, Howard Jones playing and Beecham to give his name and assistance.  It would be quite the thing for them to advertise this [in the 1929 Delius Festival Program] as 'shortly to appear'."

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