Frederick Delius

On Craig Dhu, for chorus, RT iv/2

    Description by Adrian Corleonis

    Delius and Philip Heseltine -- known to all lovers of English song as Peter Warlock -- shared a mystical (for lack of a more precise word) prehension of music in which its evocative powers overtook the listener, or the composer, with the fullness of grace, or a transformative awakening to a paradisal state. Cecil Gray attributed the unique afflatus of Delius' best music to "a kind of ecstatic revelation which may only last for a split second of time, but which he who has known it spends the rest of his life trying to recapture." And he pinpointed that moment in Delius' life: "...and when I asked him if it were so and if I were right, he was surprised and admitted that I was. The occasion was one summer night, when he was sitting out on the verandah of his house in his orange grove in Florida, and the sound came to him from the near distance of the voices of the Negroes in the plantation, singing in chorus. It is the rapture of this moment that Delius is perpetually seeking to communicate in all his most characteristic work." And, one is compelled to admit, not merely succeeding but adumbrating the power of that first pristine moment through an amazing variety of works, large and small. Among the latter, On Craig Ddu (or Craig Dhu) for mixed chorus a cappella, composed in 1907 and playing just under four minutes, projects a transfixing vision in its melting harmonies; a nearly hallucinatory, breathless evocation of self merging, from its mountain-top vantage, with earth, sky, water; and distant humanity. It cannot be said that Arthur Symons' fragmentary, even homely, poem goes very far to suggest the magic Delius imbues it with. But magic there is in a transcendent performance, such as the 15- year-old Heseltine must have heard in 1910, which, as Gray noted, "...came as a veritable revelation to him. He did not rest until he had procured every work of Delius which was then accessible, and from that moment onward music possessed his thoughts to the exclusion of all else." Heseltine initiated correspondence with the composer, who soon became a father figure to him, as Heseltine performed the invaluable service of making piano transcriptions of Delius' operas and choral works, thus introducing them to a wider public. Their relationship broadened and deepened until Heseltine's suicide in 1930. The "ecstatic revelation" Delius experienced in his own youth was passed on with life-transforming consequences.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2012 Decca
    2012 SOMM SOMM 0119
    2011 Decca 4783078
    1998 Somm 210
    1995 Conifer 75605 51752-2
    Continuum 1054