Monday, January 29, 2007

Frederick Delius

Today marks the birthday of Frederick Delius, a somewhat neglected composer who was born in England to German parents and spent most of his life out of the country, briefly in America and settling in France, where he was living when he died. While Delius wrote operas, orchestral and vocal works, it is one of his smaller works that is my favorite. The Florida Suite is a delightfully melodious and soothing group of evocative pieces by Delius. This is his earliest orchestral work dating from 1886-87. It was inspired by the composer's residence on a Florida orange plantation (Solano Grove) near Jacksonville. The Suite is in four movements: the first is subtitled "Daybreak-Dance" and the "Dance" section (probably the best-known part of the suite) is also known as "La Calinda" due to its later use in the opera "Koanga" (1895-97) under that name. The second movement of the Suite is titled "By the River" , specifically the St. Johns River that flows through the Grove. Like the river the music flows melodically. The third movement, Sunset-Near the Plantation resembles the first movement with a slow introduction and a fast section subtitled "Danza", again with similar percussion especially the tambourine. (the slow section returns at the end in this case.) The last movement is titled "At Night" and demonstrates the influence of Wagner. The movement quotes from the rest of the Suite except for the third movement. There is even a hint of the Good Friday music from Wagner's Parsifal portrayed naturally in the context of Delius' early style. A much slowed-down and disguised version of the "Calinda" theme of the first movement ends the Suite. Delius style is hard to classify but certainly wonderful to hear.

No comments: