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The life and times of Frederick Delius

1862: Fritz Theodor Albert Delius born in Bradford.

1868: Violin lessons with Herr Bauerkeller of the Halle Orchestra.

1869: Violin lessons with George Haddock of Leeds.

1871: Goes to preparatory school in Bradford.

1872: Hears Chopin’s E minor Valse (Op posth).

1874: Goes to Bradford Grammar School. 1875: Hears Wagner’s Lohengrin at Covent Garden.

1878: Leaves school, and goes to college at Isleworth.

1880: Although wanting to become a musician, joins family firm. Sent to Stroud in Gloucestershire as rep for Delius & Co, and then to Chemnitz in Germany. Violin lessons in Chemnitz with Hans Sitt.

1881: Recalled to Bradford, and then sent to Sweden. Visits Norway, and is overwhelmed by its beauty. Next sent to St Etienne in France.

1882: Takes a ‘gambling break’ in Monte Carlo. Recalled to Bradford yet again, but goes via Paris to see his uncle, Theodor. Later in the year, makes second trip to Scandinavia.

1883: Sent to Paris for a while, but his interest in business life continues to decline. Julius eventually agrees to him going to Florida to run an orange plantation, with a friend from Bradford.

1884: Meets organist Thomas Ward, who comes to live at Solana Grove and gives him a wide range of music lessons.

1885: Becomes disenchanted with life at Solana Grove, and goes to Jacksonville, and then to Danville, Virginia, as a music teacher.

1886: Leaves Danville (and several broken hearts) for New York, and briefly disappears. Julius agrees to him going to the Leipzig Conservatoire.

1887: Florida Suite performed in Leipzig by ad hoc orchestra to an audience consisting of Delius, Grieg and Sinding.

1888: Leaves Conservatoire at Easter, and persuades his father to allow him to go to compose in Paris. He begins to meet painters and poets, and explores Parisian life in depth.

1889: Moves to Croissy-sur-Seine.

1890: Starts, but doesn’t finish, several orchestral works because new ideas keep coming. His first publication – Five Songs from the Norwegian (Augner).

1891: Gives up Croissy apartment in June, and spends four months in Norway. First public performance of his music, the tone poem Paa Vidderne,in Christiania (Oslo).

1892: Widens his circle of both smart (mainly lady) friends and members of the Scandinavian artistic community based at Molard’s studio in the Rue Vercingetorix in Montparnasse. Acquires an interest in astrology and occultism.

1893: Three months spent in Norway, mainly with Sinding. Little composing.

1894: Paa Vidderne performed in Monte Carlo. Still socialising hard, and now in a Bohemian circle of artists and writers meeting at Mere Charlotte’s Cremerie in the Rue de la Grande Chaumière. Meets Ravel and Florent Schmitt.

1895: A bad year. Julius, concerned that he seems to be making no progress, cuts his allowance to £1 a week. Delius & Co in financial difficulties. Delius quarrels with Theodor. He continues to be distracted from composing by the Parisian life, and learns that he has contracted syphilis, which is treated. (Percy Grainger once said ‘Fred set out to enjoy life, did so, and did not regret paying the price it cost’).

1896: Becomes friends with Jelka Rosen, a German student painter, and her friend Ida Gerhardi, also a painter. She introduces Delius to Grez-sur-Loing, near Fontainebleau. Three summer months in Norway. Much time spent with Munch, now living in Paris, and meets Strindberg.

1897: Returns to Solana Grove to check its condition, and some suggest also to search for a Negro lady who had been his mistress, and their child – but without result. Jelka buys a house in Grez, Delius moves in with her – and they stay there until their deaths. Under pressure from Gerhadi, Hans Hyam conducts premiere of Over the Hills and Far Away at Elberfield in Germany, and he becomes a great supporter of Delius. Delius’s ‘apprenticeship’ is over.

1898: Theodor dies, and leaves Delius 25,000 francs. Visits Bradford and spends Christmas with his sister Clare (who much later writes her memoirs of him).

1899: On May 30, all-Delius concert at St James’s Hall in London, conducted by Alfred Hertz; widely reviewed, and generally well received, but costs Delius a lot. Jelka Rosen suffers from depression, probably because of Delius’s continuing predilection for other women.

1900: Spends the winter in Germany, trying to interest conductors and publishers in his music. First performance of Paris, by Haym at Elberfeld.

1901: Auguste Rodin visits Delius at Grez.

1902: Adopts the name Frederick in place of Fritz. Beginning of the ‘master years’ of composition. Ravel makes piano arrangement of Margot la Rouge, and Schmitt one of A Village Romeo & Juliet.

1903: Delius and Jelka Rosen marry at Grez. Delius hears Paris at Düsseldorf under Buths; Mitternachtslied Zarathustras performed in Basel. Buths & Haym play Paris & Lebenstanz to Strauss, who approves of them.

1904: Several visits to Germany for first performances of his works.

1905: Another visit to Germany, to hear Appalachia again, this time under Buths. Delius helps Munch and Jelka with preparations for exhibitions in Paris. Much of the year spent working on A Mass Of Life.

1906: Delius goes to Berlin for a performance of Appalachia conducted by Oskar Fried, and signs agreement with Harmonie Verlag – his first proper publishers (although Augner had had previously published some songs) – for the publication of Sea Drift and Appalachia. First performance of Sea Drift at Essen. Delius now firmly established in Germany.

1907: A Village Romeo And Juliet premiered in Berlin under Cassirer. Makes two visits to London – in April goes to one of Balfour Gardiner’s ‘extended Frankfurt Gang’ meetings, where he meets Percy Grainger, Cyril Scott, Frederic Austin (whom he decides should sing the first English performance of Sea Drift), Norman O’Neill and Roger Quilter; they all become good friends. In the autumn, two very successful concerts in London’s Queen’s Hall, one conducted by Henry Wood, and the other by Cassirer, who gives the English premiere of Appalachia, after which Delius meets Thomas Beecham, and a lifelong friendship develops between them.

1908: Delius returns to England from Grez four times – first to hear Beecham conduct Paris in Liverpool, and Enrique Arbos do Lebenstanz in London; then to conduct Appalachia at Hanley in Staffordshire; next for the first performance of Sea Drift at the Sheffield Festival (with Austin as the soloist and Wood conducting; and finally to conduct the premiere of In A Summer Garden in London. Walking holiday with Beecham in Norway. Beecham conducts Sea Drift (again with Austin and The North Staffordshire District Choral Society) in Hanley & Manchester – and then in Queen’s Hall early in 1909. He also does Brigg Fair and the Légende.Part 2 of A Mass of Life in Munich. Delius has now truly arrived on the English musical scene.

1909: Beecham and O’Neill visit Grez, and later a walking tour in the Black Forest with O’Neill. First performance of Delius’s music in the USA – Paris in Boston. Travels to London, Denmark and Germany. Health begins to deteriorate.

1910: Health gets worse – spends a miserable month in a Swiss sanatorium, and a longer spell at one in Dresden. Beecham gives first English performances of A Village Romeo And Juliet at Covent Garden. Dispute with Harmonie continues.

1911: Goes for cure at Wiesbaden, and gradually recovers. Composing quite hard, and notably writing The Song Of The High Hills.

1912: Visit to Berlin for performance of Paris by Oskar Fried, and to Venice for a holiday. Breaks with Harmonie, and Universal Edition take over all works published by them. Performances of Sea Drift in Birmingham; Dance Rhapsody No 1 (conducted by Gardiner) and the Piano Concerto in London; and of Lebenstanz in Berlin. Sells Solana Grove to Haym.

1913: Beecham and Lady Cunard get him welcomed into ‘high society’, and he has lunch at 10 Downing Street; Cologne (In a Summer Garden); Norway; Leipzig (first performance of On Hearing The First Cuckoo In Spring and Summer Night On The River, conducted by Nikisch); and Vienna. Attends first performance of Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps in Paris. Piano Concerto performed at the Proms.

1914: Attends performances of the Mass in Wiesbaden and Frankfurt. Increasing enthusiasm for and performances of Delius’s music in England, very largely due to Beecham and Wood. At the start of the First World War, at Grainger’s urging, Delius and Jelka leave for England before the Germans reach Paris, but only get to Orleans and return to Grez after a week; in mid-November, they come to England, and move into one of Beecham’s houses near Watford.

1915: Delius and Jelka remain in Watford until July and then go to Norway for three months, before returning to Grez. With Grainger’s encouragement, Delius’s music becomes more and more popular in the USA.

1916: Delius’s health improves, and he composes more as well as helping Jelka in the garden.

1917: Becomes seriously ill again, and goes to a spa in Normandy; recovers well enough to walk in Brittany with Jelka.

1918: Thinks of going to London in February until the end of the war, but ill-health intervenes again. In June, Delius and Jeklka go to Biarritz for two months, but while there are told that the house at Grez had been requisitioned by the French Army, and when they get back they find that it has been vandalised. They leave Grez for London in September. Delius becomes depressed. Few performances.

1919: London premieres of Violin Concerto (Albert Sammons and Sir Adrian Boult) and Eventyr (Wood), but almost no other performances of Delius’s music.

1920: In financial difficulties, as assets are tied up in Germany. First performances of The Song Of The High Hills (under Albert Coates) and the Double Concerto (Harrisons & Wood), and Beecham repeats A Village Romeo & Juliet. Accepts commission for incidental music to James Elroy Flecker’s play Hassan. Philip Heseltine starts biography of Delius.

1921: Some blocked funds released, so can afford holiday in Norway; last visit to Bradford and hears Sea Drift. Friedrich Rosen, Jelka’s brother, appointed German Foreign Minister.

1922: Delius is very unwell, needing sticks for walking, and goes for cures in Wiesbaden and the Black Forest, then to Norway, where he has a chalet built and Gardiner visits them. First performance of Requiem, conducted by Coates.

1923: In Bad Oeynhausen in Germany for another cure, and then to Norwegian cottage again, with Grainger paying a visit. On return to Grez, Delius buys a motor car, and is driven to Rapallo for the winter. Because of Delius’s and Jelka’s continued financial difficulties, Gardiner buys the house at Grez, for them to live in, rent-free, for the rest of their lives.

1924: Goes to Cassel for a cure, instead of, as hoped, to the USA, and returns there in the winter.

1925: Delius still at Cassel, paralysed and blind, but mentally fine. Returns to Grez in May, has many musical visitors, and is presented with the Gold Medal of The Royal Philharmonic Society.

1926: Huge flow of visitors continues, both at Cassel and Grez. Delius buys a (wind-up) gramophone.

1927: Electricity laid on to the house, and Delius buys a radio. Austin and Gardiner come for Christmas. Perform-ances of major works in Boston, Berlin, Frankfurt, Wiesbaden and London. First recordings of Delius’s music: Brigg Fair, In A Summer Garden and On Hearing The First Cuckoo In Spring (LSO, conducted by Geoffrey Toye). Little hope for Delius’s recovery.

1928: A 22-year-old musician, Eric Fenby, offers to come to Grez to act as Delius’s amanuensis in completing his unfinished works, and arrives in October. Delius begins to become interested in working again.

1929: A dozen or more visitors come to stay and encourage Delius in his efforts, and much is achieved with Fenby. Appointed a Companion of Honour.

1930: Delius obtains help from a hypnotist.

1932: Delius made a Freeman of Bradford.

1933: Elgar, Lionel Tertis and O’Neill visit. Wood gives Idyll at the Proms.

1934: Delius desperately ill. He dies on June 10, nursed by Fenby.

1935: Delius’s body is brought to England, and reburied at Limpsfield in Surrey. Jelka dies of cancer, and, under her will, The Delius Trust is set up to provide resources and information relating to Delius and his music.

* This Timeline has been created by Delius Society chairman Martin Lee-Browne, who thanks Lionel Carley for his help.



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