Thursday, January 29, 2015

Frederick Delius: A Cry Of The Soul


If you have read this blog for more than a few months you know I enjoy a variety of musical genres. Personally, the choice of a favorite kind of music is impossible but there are favorites in each of those niches. In the world of the classics, the choice is Frederick Delius (1862-1934), an English composer noted for his lyrical and innovative music.  I remember sitting at home with my dad in 1968, both of us reading, with the television providing nothing more than background noise. Suddenly there was the sound of amazing new music. The program was a broadcast of Ken Russell's film, Song of Summer, a biographical window into the story of Delius and his music in his last years.  His music has been with me since that day. And it's been a pleasure watching the growing appreciation of the man and his music over these decades.

Delius portrait by his wife, Jelka Rosen, 1925

Delius is an interesting character in western music. He patterned much of his style after that of his friend and fellow composer, Edvard Grieg, but tempered it with English impressionism, his love of naturalism, and folk themes he heard among African American working on his father's grapefruit plantation near Solano Grove, Florida. The result was simply beautiful, but I think appropriately described as an acquired appreciation. 





Years ago, I had the opportunity to sit alone on a dock watching the sunset across the St. Johns River not far from Solano Grove. This music was in my head, and all the beauty of La Florida was in my heart. Delius had likely walked the river edge, watching the same sun glistening on the water, hearing the songs of the workers blending with those of the insects and the wind rustling the reeds and nearby palmettos, feeling the evening move over the landscape. It was an immersive experience for me. Events like that become fixed in memory. They emerge as compelling memories meant to be shared. I'm more than happy to share this one and encourage readers to continuing exploring its subject.


Music is a cry of the soul. It is addressed and should appeal instantly to the soul of the listener. It is a revelation, a thing to be reverenced.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Frederick Delius

This post commemorates his birth on this day 153 years ago. 

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