Delius 150th: EMI box and Southbank Centre day(December 2011)
29 January 2012 is the 150th anniversary of Frederick Delius’s birth, with celebrations on disc, in the concert hall and the opera house.
As an impressive upbeat to Frederick Delius's 150th anniversary, EMI has released an 18-CD box set of Delius, drawing on the recorded legacy from 1929 to the present, with perfomers including Beecham, Menuhin, du Pre, Tortelier, Baker and Bostridge. EMI has also collaborated with the Delius Society on a new website, Frederick Delius: Apostle of Nature, to be found at www.frederickdelius.com. The site combines an extended Delius timeline with audio commentary, a talk by Sir Thomas Beecham from the archive, an audio guide to Delius's music by Paul Guinery, and a photo gallery.
On the birthday itself, 29 January, the Southbank Centre presents a Delius day in London with a Philharmonia Orchestra concert conducted by Andrew Davis and a screening of Ken Russell’s Delius film A Song of Summer, widely recognised as one of the finest achievements of the director who died in November. The film will be followed by a round-table discussion about the composer. At the centre of the Delius concert is his Cello Concerto with soloist Julian Lloyd Webber, who also performs the work in Worthing (8 Jan), Oxford (15 Jun) and the Three Choirs Festival in Hereford (22 Jul).
The Cello Concerto was one of the fruits of Delius's collaborations with the Harrison sisters, who did so much to promote new British works in the first half of the 20th century. Beatrice Harrison was the dedicatee of Delius's Cello Sonata (1916) and the Caprice and Elegy (1930) and it was at her behest that he composed the Cello Concerto in 1921. Essentially rhapsodic in tone and avoiding the traditional conflict between soloist and orchestra across a three-movement format, the concerto is a highly original work exploring extended melodic variation techniques with the seven continuous sections driven forward by the lyrical flow of the solo instrument.
Julian Lloyd Webber, who has long been a strong advocate for the Cello Concerto describes how it "is a glorious work – one of the loveliest in the entire repertoire, a veritable paradise garden of lush cello sound. Throughout there are gorgeous flecks of orchestral colouring which add light and shade in the most inspired way. And the wonderful, sweeping allegramente theme towards the end is one of the best Delius ever wrote. The entire final section is exceptionally beautiful and it is no surprise that not only was it the composer’s own personal favourite amongst his four concertos (on account, he said, of its “melodic invention”) but also that Elgar told Delius that “the work of yours I would most like to conduct is your beautiful cello concerto”.”
Beatrice Harrison herself wrote of Delius's cello music in the magazine Everyman in 1926, summing up how he "describes the after-glow of the sun sinking into the West, leaving a blessing over the world, the stars emerging and fainting away as the moon rises." The Cello Concerto can be heard on a new collection of Delius's string concertos featuring the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Andrew Davis with cellist Paul Watkins and violinist Tasmin Little (Chandos CHSA 5094).
As well as numerous international concerts around the birthday itself, the anniversary on 29 January is celebrated on the radio, with Delius as Composer of the Week on BBC Radio 3, and a Classic FM Delius Day.
Admirers of Delius's powerful opera A Village Romeo and Juliet, disappointed by the cancellation of The Royal Opera's planned production this autumn due to the death of Sir Charles Mackerras, have two opportunities to see it on stage in the anniversary year. New productions are presented in Karlsruhe conducted by Justin Brown, opening on 28 January and running through to June, and at the Wexford Festival in October/November. The classic recording of A Village Romeo and Juliet with Elizabeth Harwood and Robert Tear has been re-released in EMI’s new opera series.
Other highlights in the Delius anniversary year testify to his international connections in the USA, Germany and France as well as the UK. These include a Florida celebration in St Petersburg (6-8 Jan), a festival in Paris and the composer’s home town of Grez-sur-Loing (5-8 May), and features at summer festivals in the UK including the BBC Proms, the Three Choirs Festival and the English Music Festival. Sea Drift, Delius's masterly Walt Whitman setting for baritone, chorus and orchestra, is featured widely with vocalists Roderick Williams in London (24 Mar) and Karlsruhe (22-23 Apr) and James Rutherford at the Three Choirs Festival (26 Jul). The British Library hosts a study weekend (22-23 Sep), and Chetham’s School of Music presents a Delius Celebration in October with concerts in Manchester and his birth city of Bradford.
Delius hire discount
To celebrate the 150th anniversary of Delius' birth, Boosey & Hawkes in London is offering a 25% discount on orchestral hire fees for (small right) UK performances of Delius' works, taking place over the course of 2012. Please contact the London Hire Library for further details or to obtain a quote email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Delius Composition Prize 2012
The Delius Society has promoted an annual, conservatoire-based Performance Prize since 2004, which has been highly successful. In addition to this and in honour of the 2012 anniversary, is the launch of an International Composition Prize, open to all composers. Entrants are invited to offer a composition of 10-20 minutes' duration, scored for one to five performers, that has the potential to be programmed with works of Delius for broadly similar (i.e. solo, duo or chamber) forces. The composition can be a single piece or a group of pieces. As well as receiving a prize of £2,000, the winner may be invited to submit his or her work for performance at a public event to be scheduled in London in 2012.
For further information visit:
> Further information on Work: Cello Concerto
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