Delius

The works of Frederick Delius
Delius. Delius Society

The works of Frederick Delius were the subject of the Society’s evening on April 24th and we were delighted to welcome Martin Lee-Browne, the ex-president of the Delius Society.  This was an informed presentation – not just because Martin knew a great deal about this composer – but because of the family connections he has with him.  His grandfather was a good friend to Delius and also taught Sir Thomas Beecham the famous conductor.  It was Beecham who did so much to promote the composer.

Delius’s father was a wool merchant and wanted his son to go into the business which he did for about 2 years.  His heart was not in it so he then persuaded his father to help set him up in the orange plantation business in Florida which he did for a couple of years.  He then gave that up and moved to Danville in Virginia.

He studied music in Leipzig in 1886 but was unimpressed with the teaching there which he found old fashioned and apparently, they were not too impressed with him.  He met and became friends with the Norwegian Composer Edvard Grieg and persuaded him to come to England to meet his father.  Norway was a big influence on his work and the Song of the High Hills is based on his time there.  Beecham described this as one of the composer’s major works.

His father was so impressed that his son knew someone as famous as Grieg that he continued funding his musical activities for another year.  This he spent living in Montparnasse in Paris.  He struggled to make a living there as a composer.  By 1899 he had managed to get only 20 songs published.

He returned to England and self-funded a concert of his own works which had mixed success but began to get him recognised as a serious composer.  Gradually his pieces entered the repertoire.   Martin played several of his works – including some early compositions which one would not at first sight have realised were by him – as well as selections from his more famous and familiar works.  These included Brigg Fair, the single movement Violin Concerto and Sea Drift, the latter strongly influenced by Walt Whitman.

Martin Lee-Browne. Picture: Salisbury RMS

Martin also brought along some memorabilia included a score annotated in the margin by Percy Grainger.  In 1910 his health seriously declined and he was only able to compose with the aid of Eric Fenby who wrote the music to Delius’s direction.  He lived for most of his life in Grez-sur-Loing in France and he is buried with his wife in Limpsfield in Surrey.

 

 

 

 

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Next meeting

Frederick Delius

 Our next meeting on Monday 24th April celebrates the music of the English composer Frederick Delius.  We are pleased to welcome Martin Lee-Browne to the Society who is from the Delius Society and will be coming down from the Midlands to speak to us and play some of his works.

Normal start at 7.30 and details of where we are can be found at the top of the page.  It is £3 for non-members.  Parking is easy and the room is accessible for people with disabilities.  We look forward to seeing you.

Anton Bruckner

Picture: Wikipedia

For some, Anton Bruckner (pictured) was one of the great symphonists to come out of the nineteenth century.  Nowadays, his works are performed around the world and are a regular feature of the repertoire.  There are many recordings of the nine numbered symphonies.  But for a long time, his reputation languished and there was a major effort to recognise his genius in the 1960’s.

At the last meeting of the Society, Terry Barfoot gave an illustrated history of the composer and played four movements from 4 different symphonies to illustrate his work.  Bruckner was born in Ansfelden in Austria in 1824, the son of a school teacher.  He himself became a school teacher.  He was an organist of prodigious ability and toured Europe mostly playing improvisations.  Little of this survives.  He was the first to play the organ at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

View of the organ, RFH. Picture: Peter Curbishley

One can hear the influence of the organ in his music.  As Terry put it:

[…] the sound-world of the organ in the resonant acoustic of a great cathedral is relevant in his symphonies, as of course it is in his religious works.  From Wagner he derived his long time-spans, his weighty brass writing and expressive string textures, while another recurring was Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, and especially its opening […]

He was clearly a late developer as a composer and Terry made the point that had he died at the same age as Schubert (31) he would today be completely unknown.

He was deeply religious and trained as a musician at the monastery church at Sankt Florian a place he was to return to throughout his life especially when he was depressed.  He was also organist in Linz.

Like so many composers – indeed artists generally – he was not appreciated fully in his lifetime.  The famous critic Eduard Hanslick gave him a hard time and his time with the Vienna Philharmonic was not a success.

Terry put together a programme to illustrate his range and development as a composer.  Bruckner is something of a challenge in the context of a Society evening as the expansiveness of his music does not lend itself to short extracts!  He played the following:

  • Motet: Locus Iste
  • Symphony No. 8 first movement
  • Symphony No. 6 second movement
  • Symphony No. 4 third movement
  • Symphony No. 7 fourth movement

Together with photographs of locations around Austria where Bruckner lived or worked this was an interesting and illuminating evening.  We were grateful to Terry Barfoot for putting it together.


Terry runs Arts in Residence

Note: the next meeting is not for 3 weeks because of Easter