Friday 15th July saw the ‘Rethinking Delius’ Symposium at the British Library. The event was well-attended by members of the Delius Trust and Society and by professional musicologists. Daniel Grimley introduced the project and the key issues being explored, while Joanna Bullivant gave a talk on the forthcoming online Delius Catalogue of Works.
An initial short paper session on ‘Delius’s landscapes’ featured three fascinating papers by Peter Franklin, David Byrne, and Sarah Kirby. Franklin discussed a recent production of Koanga and the problems of staging the work; Byrne undertook a detailed analysis of excerpts from A Mass of Life and North Country Sketches, challenging the often-made assertion that Delius’s music was harmonically ‘vertical’; Kirby presented an account of Percy Grainger’s efforts to establish Delius’s music in North America, and the prejudices and agendas that this reveals.
In the second short paper session, Anthony Gritten of the Royal Academy of Music discussed Delius’s Dance for Harpischord, using the work as a lens through which to understand something of Delius’s reputation among his contemporaries. Christopher Redwood situated Margot La Rouge in the broader context of operatic verism. Sarah Collins dealt with the vexed question of the competing historical claims made about Delius’s national identity – or lack thereof.
The keynote lecture was delivered by Professor Jeremy Dibble, who traced the genre of the partsong through Delius’s music, raising profound insights into Delius’s compositional procedures and references to German, English, and American musical traditions.
Following the Symposium, Clare Wheeler (violin) and Suzy Ruffles (piano) gave a concert of violin and piano music by Delius and Elgar at St Pancras Church. Delius’s Violin Sonata no. 3 and Elgar’s Violin Sonata were played with great passion and sensitivity, and the concert finished with the chamber arrangement of Delius’s Lègende for violin and orchestra.