Frederick Delius

Born: 1862
Died: 1934

Occupation: Composer

Challenges overcome: Visual Impairment

Successes, Achievements & Awards:

Frederick Theodore Albert Delius, born on 29 January 1862 was an English composer. Born in the North of England to a prosperous mercantile family, Frederick resisted attempts to recruit him to commerce. He was sent to Florida in the United States in 1884 to manage an orange plantation. There he soon neglected his managerial duties, and in 1886 returned to Europe. Having been influenced by African-American music during his short stay in Florida, he began composing. After a brief period of formal musical study in Germany beginning in 1886, he embarked on a full-time career as a composer in Paris and then in nearby Grez-sur-Loing, where he and his wife Jelka lived for the rest of their lives, except during the First World War.

Frederick Delius’s first successes came in Germany, where  Hans Haym and other conductors promoted his music from the late 1890s. In Frederick Delius’s native Britain, it was 1907 before his music made regular appearances in concert programmes, after Thomas Beecham took it up. Thomas Beecham conducted the full premiere of  A Mass of Life in London in 1909 (he had premiered Part II in Germany in 1908); he staged the opera  A Village Romeo and Juliet at  Covent Garden in 1910; and he mounted a six-day Delius festival in London in 1929, as well as making gramophone recordings of many of Frederick Delius’s works. After 1918 Frederick Delius began to suffer the effects of  syphilis, contracted during his earlier years in Paris. He became paralysed and blind, but completed some late compositions between 1928 and 1932 with the aid of an  amanuensis, Eric Fenby.

The lyricism in Frederick Delius’s early compositions reflected the music he had heard in America and the influences of European composers such as  Edvard Grieg and Richard Wagner. As his skills matured, he developed a style uniquely his own, characterised by his individual orchestration and his uses of  chromatic harmony. Frederick Delius’s music has been only intermittently popular, and often subject to critical attacks. The Delius Society, formed in 1962 by his more dedicated followers, continues to promote knowledge of the composer’s life and works, and sponsors the annual Delius Prize competition for young musicians.

Frederick Delius’s high musical summer, which was to last from 1901, when he completed his operatic masterpiece, A Village Romeo and Juliet, to almost the end of the first World War. Appalachia dates from 1902, Sea Drift from 1903/4, and the large-scale A Mass of Life was composed during 1904/5. Then came Songs of Sunset(1906/7), Brigg Fair (1907), In a Summer Garden (1908, revised 1912) and the first of the two Dance Rhapsodies (1908). Much of 1909/10 was devoted to Frederick Delius’s  last opera.

Soon after the completion of North Country Sketches (1913/4), the war years brought turmoil into the Deliuses’ life, and for a time they had to leave Grez-sur-Loing. Despite all difficulties, however, Delius continued to compose a surprising amount of music: the Requiem, second Dance Rhapsody, Eventyr, and the concertos for violin and for violin, cello and orchestra all date from the war years, as do his string quartet, cello sonata and the final version of his long set-aside violin sonata no.1.  Frederick Delius’s last essay in concerto form, for the cello, dates from 1921, while his final purely orchestral work, A Poem of Life and Love (1918/9) apparently did not satisfy him sufficiently for it to be published. With the help of his friend, the composer Percy Grainger, the last touches were put in 1923 to the incidental music for Flecker’s play Hassan: its phenomenally successful run in London helped to buttress the Deliuses’ ailing finances, which had been adversely affected by the war.

With all his outstanding works completed, Frederick Delius died at Grez-sur-Loing on June 10 1934, his wife outliving him by just one year. They are buried at Limpsfield, Surrey, England.

Challenges Overcome

Visual Impairment and Physical Disability

Disability Definitions

Visually Impaired

Visual impairment (or vision impairment) is a decreased ability to see to a degree that causes problems not fixable by usual means, such as glasses or medication. Eye disorders which can lead to visual impairments can include retinal degeneration, albinism, cataracts, glaucoma, muscular problems that result in visual disturbances, corneal disorders, diabetic retinopathy, congenital disorders, and infection. Visual impairment can also be caused by brain and nerve disorders, in which case it is usually termed cortical visual impairment.

Physical disability

A physical disability is a limitation on a person’s physical functioning, mobility, dexterity or stamina. Other physical disabilities include impairments which limit other facets of daily living, such as respiratory disorders, blindness, epilepsy and sleep disorders.

Physical disability. (2015, May 9). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 10:59, May 20, 2015, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Physical_disability&oldid=661496548

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Information sources:

Please click on the information links below to find out more.


Diana McVeagh, ‘Delius, Frederick Theodor Albert (1862–1934)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Sept 2011 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/32775, accessed 1 July 2015] – Please note that you will require library subscription or a library card to access the content on this site.

Frederick Delius. (2015, May 5). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 12:49, May 16, 2015, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Frederick_Delius&oldid=660887629

Image source: Wikicommons

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