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 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.
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.
The new season got off to a good start with a presentation entitled The Power of Mysticism in Music by Ian Lace. Ian was one of the founder members of the Society (not called that then) so we were pleased to welcome him back. He chose pieces where a sense of something beyond the composer was present in the music. It was interesting that most of the pieces – with one exception in fact – were English composers. Whether this means composers from these shores are more susceptible to these influences is probably unlikely although it was noticeable that several had experience either the first or second world wars.
The pieces played were:
Adagio from Elgar’s Symphony No 1
Bax, Symphony No 3
Finzi Intimations of Mortality
The Romanza from Vaughan William’s Symphony No 5
Elgar again the time the Kingdom Pentecost and finishing with
Delius Songs of Farewell
Well not quite finishing there because he finished with Louis Armstrong singing What a Wonderful World.
An excellent evening and an all too rare opportunity to hear the music of Bax.
The next meeting is on 3 October and is on early stereo recordings. It will be preceded by a brief agm.
By now, existing members will have received their invitation letter and programme for the 2016/17 season. We are pleased with what we have in the programme which includes a ‘live’ event and outside speakers on Bruckner and Delius. We have stayed away from Bruckner because his symphonies are on a massive scale but we are delighted that Terry Barfoot has risen to the challenge to give us a presentation on this important composer. Proms listeners will have had a treat this year with several of his works being performed.
If you are new to this site we hope you will give us a try and if you just want to come along to an evening – because you have a particular interest in a composer for example – then it is only £3 to help cover costs.
One of our guiding principles is to widen knowledge of the musical world and speakers will often try to introduce unfamiliar pieces, either by composers who are almost forgotten or less well known pieces by major composers.
Parking is easy with plenty of space and we are within walking distance of the town centre.
The new season’s programme has now been finalised and will soon be printed for distribution. You can see a copy of the brochure here ahead of publication. The committee has put together an excellent programme with two outside speakers and one, for the first time, from the Delius Society. We have one ‘live’ music evening as well as presentations on a wide range of topics from Society members themselves.
Meeting arrangements are as before and parking is easy. New members are always welcome – we’ve had several this year – and if you want to come along to an evening without commitment, there is a small fee of £3 to help with our expenses.
Existing members: if you can do anything to help promote events that would be appreciated.
The last meeting of the Society was a presentation by Anthony Powell of the conducting of Sir Charles Mackerras illustrated by extracts from some of his recordings. Mackerras was born in Schenectady in USA to Australian parents but they returned to their home country when he was two to live in Sydney.
He was a precocious talent and wrote a piano concerto when he was 12. His parents were not convinced a musical life would be a viable profession so sent him to The King’s School with its focus on sport and discipline hoping that he would pursue a different career. It was not to be and at the age of 16 went to the New South Wales State Conservatorium of Music where he studied oboe, piano and composition.
At 19 he was the principal oboist with the ABC Sydney Orchestra. A few years later he sailed for England and began his career at the Saddlers Wells Theatre. He studied conducting with Vaclav Talich (pictured) in Prague and returned to resume his career at the English National Opera.
There then followed a distinguished career with a variety of famous orchestras including the BBC Concert Orchestra; Covent Garden; the Met and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. He was the first non Briton to conduct the BBCSO at the Proms.
Tony selected a wide range of his conducting and started with a piece by Sir Arthur Sullivan followed by a piece by Delius: Paris: the song of a great city first performed in 1899 in Germany and this recording with the Liverpool Philharmonic.
Mackerras had a great attachment to Czech music – indeed he spoke the language fluently – and we heard the Symphonic poem: the Noonday Witch by Dvorak. This was followed by an extract of the familiar Sinfonietta by Janacek.
The classics were not neglected and two movements from Mozart’s Symphony No. 32 in G major performed with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. Then it was Beethoven’s seventh followed by Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5. All these extracts illustrated the close attention to rhythm and pace which Mackerras had. This was particularly illustrated by an extract from Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, a piece of great energy and requiring great skill to keep the orchestra together. This was an electrifying performance.
To record Handel’s Messiah using no less than 26 oboes were needed – which is what the composer required – meant it had to be done at night finishing in the small hours. After the final scene of Janacek’s Jenufa we heard the final movement of Mahler’s Symphony No. 5, again with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchesta.
The range of this conductor’s performances was well illustrated and the pieces carefully chosen to give good examples of his style and ability. Sir Charles died in 2005. He had received many honour including a CBE; Medal of Merit from Czech Republic and was made Honorary President of Edinburgh International Festival Society.
The next meeting of the Society is on Monday 5 October – usual time, usual place. It is entitled 1911 – New music of a sunset year and will be given by Barry Conaway. It will include music by Mahler, Delius, Sibelius, Elgar and Nielsen. We look forward to seeing you there.