New film will chart life of Bradford composer Delius

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Frederick Delius Frederick Delius

A new television film is being made about Bradford composer Frederick Delius to mark the 150th anniversary of his birth.

Due to be shown on BBC Four later this year, it is the first full-length portrait of Delius since the late director Ken Russell’s 1968 film Song of Summer.

The new profile will focus on the composer’s early years in Bradford, as well as his time spent working on an orange plantation in Florida and his move to France, where he died in 1934.

Film-maker John Bridcut, who is working on the programme, said he aimed to move away from the image of Delius as a grumpy old man, as portrayed in Russell’s film.

Mr Bridcut said Delius’s youth in Bradford had a profound effect on the music he went on to compose.

Born in 1862 to German parents, Delius spent his early years at Claremont, Great Horton. His parents were founder members of Bradford’s German Church, now the Delius Arts and Cultural Centre, and his father was a prosperous businessman.

Delius went to Bradford Grammar School and, as a boy, learned to play violin and piano. He later worked in his father’s textile business before being sent to Florida, in his early 20s, to try his hand at cultivating oranges. He took music lessons near the plantation and, after persuading his father to let him pursue a music education, enrolled at Leipzig Conservatorium in 1886 and later moved to France.

His works including La Calinda, operatic masterpiece A Village Romeo and Juliet, and North Country Sketches, were inspired by his memories of the Yorkshire moors.

In later life Delius went blind but, dictating to young Yorkshire musician Eric Fenby, he completed a number of works including Songs of Farewell and the Idyll. Fenby’s biography, Delius As I Knew Him, was the inspiration for Russell’s film.

To commemorate the anniversary of his birth, Delius’s work was also featured on BBC Radio 3’s Music Matters on Saturday followed later in the year by a special programme of Composer of the Week and a Delius concert performed by Julian Lloyd Webber.

Delius will also feature on a special-issue Royal Mail stamp this year. His image will appear along with those of the Queen, Charles Dickens and code-breaker Alan Turing as part of a series of ten called Britons Of Distinction, available from February 23.

On Monday, January 30, the T&A will publish a special supplement commemorating the 150th anniversary of Frederick Delius’s birth.

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