Delius and the Sound of Place.
This Cambridge University Press series has a broad mission "to illuminate specific musical works, repertoires, or practices in historical, critical, socio-economic or other contexts... and to extend the conceptual framework of musicology into other disciplines or into new theoretical directions". In his contribution to the series, Daniel Grimley, professor of music at Oxford University and a fellow of Merton College, has added significantly to Delius scholarship by boldly tackling the difficult issue of where Frederick (Fritz) Delius sits in terms of his cultural identity. Born in England to German parents, Delius's first language was German. He was schooled in Yorkshire before transferring at age sixteen to a progressive International College on the outskirts of London. In 1884, aged twenty-two, he went to Florida, to work as an orange planter and there had his first composition lessons from an American, Thomas Ward. After a period in Danville, Virginia, where he decided to make his living from music, Delius returned to Europe in 1886, this time to the Leipzig Conservatoire where he met Grieg, who was to have a profound influence on his life and music. An avid traveller to Scandinavia, he then moved on to Paris before finally settling in the artistic colony of Grez-sur-Loing near Fontainebleu, with his German wife, Jelka.
Delius was firm in stating that he did not claim to be a British composer, though the folk music of the country of his birth was one of many important influences on his music. The difficulty in pinning Delius down is undoubtedly one of the factors that has resulted in, to date, there being no single substantial monograph on his entire musical output. Grimley's book is not a consideration of all Delius's music--inevitably, it has a bias towards works of a programmatic nature--but it certainly fills gaps in the existing published literature. A great strength of the book is that it has been researched largely from primary musical sources, including the unpublished Negro Songs, which only came to light in 2001. Grimley has visited the places which most inspired the music he considers, drawing new insights from his visits and research. This is perhaps most vividly demonstrated in his discussion of the Southern U.S. where he addresses the issue of how "black music", hitherto generally treated as a single, defined influence on Delius's music, is in reality needful of an infinitely more subtle study, which he characterises as "a fraught and difficult task"; a task he nevertheless tackles fearlessly.
The book is organised into seven thematic chapters, "Place", "Idyll", "River", "Drift", "Village", "Hill", and "Garden". The first chapter, "Place", is both an introduction to the framework on which Grimley's method rests and an analysis of perhaps Delius's most performed work, On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring. The following chapters centre on specific works or groups of works in a loosely chronological arrangement. Finally, "Garden" demonstrates vividly Grimley's assertion that "Place refers not only to a specific geographical site... but also to matters of identity, presence, and behavior". Significantly, this chapter examines a work, the Double Concerto, which is not, at first sight, programmatic, but which crystalises what "place" can signify.
Handsomely produced, with copious musical examples, this book has one significant failing, for which Daniel Grimley cannot be blamed. The index is a shamble, a particular drawback in a book that is unlikely to be read at a single sitting. Musical works are assigned to the wrong composers--Appalachia and Brigg Fair being credited to Delius's sister Clare, The Song of the High Hills indexed under Percy Grainger and Eric Fenby, but not Delius, and other similar errors. The Negro Songs escape the index entirely, even though they are illustrated in facsimile within the text. In a book with a cover price of [pounds sterling]75, Cambridge University Press really should issue a corrected index, compiled by someone who understands the subject.