January 29, 2020
The backstory of Frederick Delius sounds a lot like my friends who went into music: the family encouraged him to work in the family business; he kept resisting those attempts; was sent away to several countries in Europe with aims to get him to focus on overseeing a business; neglected those duties, and kept going out to concerts to absorb as much live music as possible. Though his family continued to encourage him to be a part of the family’s wool business, he continued to duck out to the music hotspots to hang with the composers, playwrights, any creative people. Exasperated, his father sent him to Florida to oversee an orange plantation. Of course, Delius found a theory and composition teacher and ignored the oranges.
In Florida, Delius heard spirituals for the first time, sung by the waiters in local hotels and by the deckhands working on nearby ships. He incorporated them into his compositions. While in the States, he taught music and a few of his works were performed. He was finally able to live as a composer before finally settling in Paris.
Have a listen to Sea Drift (1903), for voices and orchestra, based on Walt Whitman’s poetry. This work reveals Delius’ sensitivity to nature. He had an admirer in conductor Thomas Beecham, who said “Delius is the last great apostle of romance, emotion, and beauty in music.”
Delius was born January 29, 1862 in Yorkshire, England, and died June 10, 1934 in Graz, France.