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‘Rethinking Delius – A Critical Symposium’

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.


A busy week…

The project’s work was discussed at two events last week. The Royal Academy of Music hosted a seminar on Delius performance and interpretation, held in conjunction with the annual Delius Prize (see here). Professor Grimley discussed the issues with Dr Anthony Gritten and the leading Delius conductor Bo Holten.

Meanwhile, Dr Bullivant attending the annual conference of the Music Encoding Initiative in Montréal, delivering a paper reporting progress on our digital catalogue of Delius’s works, and discussing the scholarly implications of the project.

‘Rethinking Delius’, British Library, 15 July 2016

Rethinking Delius: a Critical Symposium


The British Library, London, 15 July 2016




The music of Frederick Delius presents fascinating challenges of interpretation, documentation, performance, and analysis. In conjunction with their current AHRC award, ‘Delius, Modernism and the Sound of Place’, Prof. Daniel Grimley and Dr Joanna Bullivant lead a symposium on Delius’s music, focusing on new developments in Delius scholarship and future directions in research. It will also celebrate the launch of the online Delius Catalogue of Works, an interactive resource created in the course of the project.

Proposals for 20-minute presentations from scholars at any stage of their career are now warmly invited. Topics may include, but are not limited to: Delius and opera; issues of editing and performance; Delius and his contemporaries; musical modernism; cosmopolitanism, nationalism and ethnicity in relation to Delius’s works.

The symposium is timed to follow the Biennial Conference on 19th Century Music at Oxford earlier in the week, for those wishing to attend both events. Confirmed speakers include Prof Jeremy Dibble (University of Durham) and Dr Sarah Collins (University of New South Wales). Abstracts (200 words) should be sent to by 5pm BST on Monday 31 May.


Programme committee:

Prof. Daniel Grimley (Oxford)

Dr Joanna Bullivant (Oxford)

Dr Richard Chesser (British Library)

A day of Delius with sixth-formers

On 18 March we hosted a study day for sixth-formers as part of the project. 15 sixth-formers from as far afield as Bristol and Bournemouth participated. The event focused on studying musical analysis at university. Students heard a lecture on Delius’s orchestral work and then worked together to examine both musical aspects of the work and its relationship to broad issues such as national identity. The day also featured a visit to Merton College for a student-led tour and a taste of chapel music-making.

The Market Place, Brigg, where Percy Grainger recorded the folk song that was the inspiration for Delius’s work.


Joanna Bullivant on Digital Delius

Joanna Bullivant, Research Assistant on the project, will be speaking on 8th March at the Centre for Digital Scholarship, Bodleian Library, about the challenges of digital musicology and creating an online catalogue of Delius’s works. This is a public talk open to all, but booking is required. Please see the link below for full details:

Research Uncovered—Joanna Bullivant on the Delius Catalogue of Works

5th March: Prof. Daniel Grimley on Delius on Radio 3

Building a Library–Delius: Sea Drift
BBC Radio 3, Saturday 5 March, c. 9.30am
As part of Radio 3’s weekly Saturday morning Record Review slot, Daniel Grimley presents Building a Library on Delius’s Sea-Drift, his 1904 setting of Walt Whitman’s poem ‘Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking’. Premiered in Germany in 1906, and then first performed in England at the 1908 Sheffield Festival, the piece has since been one of Delius’s most popular and widely recorded works. Grimley compares over a dozen different interpretations of the piece, from Thomas Beecham’s historic 1928 recording to more recent accounts by Stefan Sanderling and Bo Holten. Featured soloists include John Shirley-Quirk, Thomas Hampson, and Bryn Terfel. As Grimley discovers, Sea-Drift has invited a very broad range of responses, prompting pressing questions of realisation and interpretation. Discussing the choice of final recommendation, however, affirms Sea-Drift’s place among Delius’s most powerful and compelling achievements.

Study day on ‘Brigg Fair’

This exciting event for Year 12 students considering studying Music at university is FREE and now open for booking.

Year 12 Music Study Day – Delius’s Brigg Fair: an introduction to studying Music at university

Merton College in collaboration with the Faculty of Music, University of Oxford

Organisers: Professor Daniel Grimley and Dr Joanna Bullivant

Friday 18 March 2016

One of the aspects of studying Music at university that can be daunting for prospective students is musical analysis. This can involve not only understanding how music works, but connecting that information to what we know about a composer, the historical context of a work, and other music being written at the same time. This study-day, aimed at Year 12 A Level Music students, will help students to learn more about undergraduate analysis and music history, using the case-study of the English composer Frederick Delius and his orchestral work Brigg Fair. With the help of Oxford academics currently carrying out a research project on Delius, students will experience a lecture on the work and then be aided in carrying out some of their own analysis. Lunch will be provided at Merton College, along with a tour of the college and an admissions talk at the end of the day. This is an ideal opportunity to learn more about a fascinating composer, and get a first-hand impression of what it is like to study Music at university.


9.30-10.00 Arrival at the Faculty of Music

10.00 Lecture on Delius’s Brigg Fair with Professor Daniel Grimley

11.00 Brief tour of library; group work on analysis of Brigg Fair

12.00 Lunch in Hall at Merton College followed by tour of college by current undergraduates

13.30 Return to Faculty; complete group work on Brigg Fair

14.30 Plenary session: reporting on group work, conclusions

15.30 Oxford admissions talk- opportunity to ask questions

16.30 Depart

Preparation: Participating students are asked to listen to the work with the score in advance of the day. The score is available as a free download online at,_Frederick)

Application form:

This form should be completed by a school/college rather than by individual students. Up to three Year 12 Music A Level students can attend from each school/college, subject to availability. Students can attend by themselves or with a teacher.

If you have any queries about the content of the day, please direct them to: Alternatively any queries about the practical arrangements should be directed to


‘L’Entente cordiale’

On the 25th November the Villiers Quartet performed a wonderful programme of string quartets by Delius, Fauré, and Elgar, alongside the original ‘Late Swallows’ slow movement of the Delius quartet. The event marked the start of the Villiers’ three-year residency at the Music Faculty of the University of Oxford. Professor Daniel Grimley began the evening with a pre-concert talk that situated all three quartets within their historical context of musical upheaval, trauma, and war. All three composers were creating their works at a time when Schoenberg and Bartók were redefining the genre. The Fauré E minor quartet (1924) is a late work completed after World War One, full of subdued intensity and intimacy. Both the Elgar (1917) and Delius (1916-17) quartets were composed in rural seclusion, but in full proximity to war. While Elgar could hear the guns on the Western Front from ‘Brinkwells’, the cottage in Sussex in which he composed a selection of important late works, Delius had returned to his house in Grez following his forced migration from the approach of the German army at the start of the war.

The Villiers Quartet brought out the collective character of mourning and intimacy in the works, as well as their individual differences, superbly. In the Delius and Elgar quartets in particular, the range and subtlety of expression in each work was evident. The original ‘Late Swallows’ movement, heard for the first time in 99 years, was haunting, while the last movement, performed at a more languid tempo than is sometimes the case, maintained the intensity of the work as a whole. The concert was a memorable opening to what promises to be an exciting collaboration between the Faculty and the Villiers Quartet.

A podcast of highlights of Professor Grimley’s talk and excerpts of the original ‘Late Swallows’ movement is available here.


Welcome to the website of the AHRC-funded project ‘Delius, Modernism, and the Sound of Place’, based at the University of Oxford. Please look around the site to find more information on the project, and check regularly for information on the progress of the project, upcoming events, and other content.