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2 - Creative Self-Communion: Paa Vidderne, Lieder aus dem Norwegischen, Légendes, Drei Symphonische Dichtungen, Songs (1888–1891)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 June 2021

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Summary

WITHDRAWAL FROM LEIPZIG AND ARRIVAL IN PARIS

By the spring of 1888 Delius was impatient to move on; moreover, the coterie of Norwegians was about to fragment. ‘Our wonderful time in Leipzig has now melted away into the past’, he later wrote to Grieg from Bradford; ‘I have never lived through such a congenial time. It has been a cornerstone in my life’. Halvorsen was the first to depart and Delius followed a fortnight later and had no intention of returning. The Griegs left in April, leaving only Sinding to languish in solitude. Delius's withdrawal from Leipzig, as Philip Jones has argued, was entirely voluntary (which somewhat contradicts the assertion that his father had only granted him a limited period of eighteen months of study). His letter to Gertrude Rueckert of December 1886 makes it clear that he expected to be in Leipzig for three years like other fellow students, but given that he attended few of the classes for which he was registered (with the exception of those with Reinecke, Jadassohn and Sitt), it is not surprising that he saw little point in continuing. The wonder is that Leipzig granted him a diploma at all. Delius's later disparagement of Leipzig, the ‘Double Fugue Institution’ as Sinding sarcastically described it, is well known. At a time when he made these comments, autodidacticism was deeply fashionable; likewise, popular ‘anti-intellectualism’ in composition and criticism deemed the word ‘academic’ (especially in the hands of Bernard Shaw) a pejorative term. Yet, Delius's experiences there, whether in the classroom, at the opera or in the concert hall, inculcated a sense of professionalism in his work and, more significantly, his later methods, with an incisive degree of self-criticism. However, possessed with youthful arrogance and (more importantly) belief in his own abilities, like many of his peers, he undoubtedly felt that he could make more progress on his own without Jadassohn's watchful eye. In January 1889, in a letter to Delius, Sinding ruefully commented: ‘it is queer how Jadassohn impresses the stamp of his own personality on his pupils, if they cannot emancipate themselves from it’. Emancipating himself clearly was Delius's desire. As he declared to the much younger Heseltine: ‘Harmony is only a means of expression which is gradually developing. I don't believe in learning harmony and counterpoint’.

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The Music of Frederick Delius
Style, Form and Ethos
, pp. 35 - 70
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2021

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