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A Miniaturist and More

For many music lovers, the end of January brings to mind two birthdays: Mozart’s on the 27th, and Schubert’s on the 31st. Could a composer born between these two giants, end up being overlooked? Perhaps. It was while preparing my blog about the Viking Opera Guide (BRM29585) that I learned that the 29th of January is the birthday of Frederick Delius.

Born in Yorkshire, England in 1862, Delius studied piano and violin. But, as often happens with young musicians, he soon learned that his father had other plans. In 1884, he was sent to Florida to manage an orange plantation; he spent all of his time studying and teaching music (while the oranges withered away). Some of the African-American melodies he heard eventually found their way into his Florida Suite and Appalachia.

In 1886 his father relented, and allowed him to study at the Leipzig Conservatory. During this time he became acquainted with the music of Wagner, Sinding and Grieg.

Eventually Delius married the German artist Jelka Rosen, and they settled near Fontainebleau. There he composed many orchestral, choral and chamber works, using an impressionistic style based on post-Wagnerian harmonies.

Portrait of Frederick Delius by his wife Jelka Rosen. Published in 1912. Public domain.

Portrait of Frederick Delius by his wife Jelka Rosen. Published in 1912. Public domain.

By 1925 Delius was blind and nearly paralyzed, but with the assistance of a young composer named Eric Fenby, he was able to complete several compositions before his death in 1934.

To sample the Delius sound, check out Pioneers of Impressionism (DBM00063). You can borrow the cartridge, or download it from BARD.

Following are a few Delius titles from our braille collection:
Air and Dance, arranged for piano by Eric Fenby (BRM02836 or BRM12635)

Five Lieder for High Voice and Piano (BRM01219)

On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring [a favorite of my wife Lisa and mine] (BRM32515). It is also in Enjoying Music, by Roy Bennett (BRM28339). In both books this piece for small orchestra is arranged for piano.

Three Preludes for Piano (BRM06083)

And what about opera? The Viking Book of Opera’s article on Delius includes information on Irmelin (1890-92), Magic Fountain (1894-95), Koanga (1895-97), as well as A Village Romeo and Juliet (1899-1901). A two-piano arrangement of “La Calinda” from Koanga may be found at BRM22294. This list of stage works suggests that there is much music by Delius waiting to be discovered.

Newest BARD Additions

Since we are on a roll talking about BARD, I thought it would be good to highlight some of the new (or newly digitized) titles that we’ve uploaded to BARD over the past few weeks. Talking Books Uncle Dave Macon (DBM03766) This is a look at “Uncle Dave” Macon (also known as “The Dixie Dewdrop) and […]

For Braille Readers—A Real Treasure Trove

This afternoon, I looked at the Metropolitan Opera schedule, which appears in the October-December issue of our quarterly magazine The Musical Mainstream. It lists all of the operas to be performed, along with NLS materials, librettos, lectures, etc., pertaining to the operas. Nowhere did I find any mention of a reference book that I read […]

A King and a (Fairy) Queen: Music by Henry Purcell in the NLS Collection

Today (September 10th) we celebrate Henry Purcell’s 356th birthday [Note: this date is actually disputed as no official baptismal record has been found. However, we will use this commonly accepted date, as it gives us a chance to talk about his music!]. Purcell’s contribution to Western classical music is indispensable, as it has influenced numerous other […]

Music History: 101

Recently, we mentioned the Music Section’s acquisition of the sixth edition, Norton Anthology of Western Music, Vol. 3, Twentieth Century. This time of year also marks the beginning of the college spring semester, and we have seen a rise in the average amount of our music history related inquiries. Music history has been on the “brain” of […]

Some Splendid Saint-Saëns Selections

Today we celebrate the 179th birthday of Camille Saint-Saëns, a famous French composer, most well-known for his works The Carnival of the Animals, Danse macabre, Samson and Delilah, and a number of other pieces. Saint-Saëns began his musical studies at the incredible age of three, while he was living with his mother and aunt in […]

In Performance: Musicians Take the Stage

While most people associate Louis Braille with the system of reading and writing for the blind, many are not aware he was also an accomplished organist and musician.  There is good evidence he created the Braille code for music first and language second.  But whichever came first, the literary or the music code, we’re just grateful […]

Opera Fans Know What’s Happening, but the Devil is in the Details or…Libretti for Everybody!

Some of the Music Section’s most ardent patrons are operagoers.  This comes as no surprise to other opera aficionados, but blind/low vision operagoers are usually not able to pick up a program in braille or large print and read a synopsis when they arrive at the theater; that is, until they (or the opera companies) […]