Frederick Delius

Requiem, for soprano, baritone, double chorus & orchestra, RT ii/8

    Description by Adrian Corleonis

    Fenby thought Delius' Requiem "the most depressing choral work I know." Begun in September 1913 after a Norwegian holiday, it grew in response to the Great War and was dedicated, at its conclusion in 1916, "To the memory of all young Artists fallen in the war." Like the Mass of Life, it suggests a religious work which its text emphatically discountenances. Delius was an atheist, and his Requiem -- which he referred to as his "Pagan Requiem" -- hymns the nullity of death, life's fleeting beauties, and offers in consolation a vision of returning springtime. But where the Mass of Life sets the most magically evocative pages of Nietzsche's Also sprach Zarathustra, the Requiem's text, the work of Delius' friend Heinrich Simon, editor of the Frankfurter Zeitung, is hortatory, hectoring, and doctrinaire in tone. Delius' initial impulse, and what he extracted from Simon, was nothing less than sober -- indeed, heavy-handed -- satire on religion. The first movement opens with the chorus intoning, "Our days here are as one day, for all our days are rounded in a sleep, they die and ne'er come back again," to which the baritone demands, "Why then dissemble we with a tale of falsehoods?" Remarkably, Delius matches this with music of somber grandeur laced with elegiac piquancy. The development of the thought is interrupted by cacophonous choral shouts of "Hallelujah" and "La il Allah" whose import is made explicit by the baritone's "And the highways of earth are full of cries, the ways of the earth bring forth Gods and idols." Delius' initial intention to parody religious music is revealed in a letter of October 10, 1913, to Ernest Newman -- "If you had to characterise the four principal religions in music -- which religious melodies used in the several religious ceremonies would you choose?" In the upshot, the notion was discarded, probably for the best. The third movement celebrates the power of love, the fourth lauds the "the man who can love life, yet without base fear can die," and the last -- one of the most musically visionary Delius ever penned -- evokes springtime's eternal renewal. By 1981, in an appendix to Delius as I Knew Him, Fenby allowed, "This musical expression, in the Requiem, of Delius' courageous attitude to life in rejecting organized faiths may well be rated by future generations as second only to the Danish Arabesque as one of his most characteristic and commendable masterpieces." Albert Coates conducted the Requiem's premiere at Queen's Hall, London, on March 23, 1922.


    1. Feierlich. Solemnly
    2. Mit Kraft und Inbrust. With vigor and fervor
    3. Moderato; a la grande Amoureuse
    4. Mit Nachdruck. With Energy
    5. Sehr Langsam. Very slow

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2002 EMI Music Distribution 575293-2
    1997 Chandos 9515
    Intaglio 702