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3 - A Wagnerian Odyssey: Irmelin and The Magic Fountain (1891–1895)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 June 2021

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Summary

FORMAL EXPANSION

The publication of the Shelley Songs by Augener was undoubtedly a welcome development for Delius, but there seemed little prospect of hearing anything of his orchestral labours. Even though he attended the Lamoureux concerts and acquainted himself with performers at the Paris Conservatoire, the French concert scene seemed closed to him. It may indeed have been this particular circumstance – the need to be ‘in the thick of things’ – that persuaded him to move from Croissy to a rented apartment at 33 rue Ducouëdec in the Montrouge quarter, now in the southern suburbs of Paris. This would be his home for several years. From there the centre of Paris was only two-and-ahalf miles, and even closer was Montparnasse where, in regularly frequenting Madame Charlotte's crémerie for a cheap meal, he would socialise with his artist friends Gauguin, Mucha, Monfreid, Slewinski, the Molards, Charles Boutet de Monvel and Munch.

Although songs and the less complex, smaller movements of his suites and the more diminutive symphonic poems had been useful loci for stylistic experimentation, Delius was clearly aware that, after the less developed exercise of the melodrama Paa Vidderne, he had yet to attempt a larger, more testing symphonic canvas for orchestra. Conscious, perhaps, that the melodrama had its flaws, Delius returned to Ibsen's poem but now with the intention of composing an entirely new concert overture with the same title. The first draft of the overture was completed sometime before the end of 1890, since a letter from Grieg states: ‘I should love to hear your overture ‘På Vidderne’. It seems that the score was in the possession of Iver Holter, conductor of the Christiania Musikforening at the end of 1890, but was received too late to be included before Christmas. Holter then asked if he could retain the score and parts with a view to performing the work in the autumn of 1891. Holter carried out his promise and performed it on 10 October 1891. Delius, who extended his stay in Norway to hear it, was there with Grieg and Sinding.

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The Music of Frederick Delius
Style, Form and Ethos
, pp. 71 - 98
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2021

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