Begun in 1924, the aptly named Fantastic Dance -- another of those beguiling Delius miniatures seemingly winging from some radiant realm of fairy -- was, with the sketches for A Late Lark and the Third Violin Sonata, laid aside in that year in the wake of increasingly alarming symptoms of the blindness and paralysis that would soon overtake him. It remained for his amanuensis Eric Fenby to discover these beginnings, and yet others call them to their composer's attention and assist in their completion between 1929 and 1932 by taking dictation from the now blind Delius. Dedicated to Fenby, Fantastic Dance was completed toward the end of 1931, during the same months which saw the composition of the Irmelin Prelude. The year was clouded by the suicide of Philip Heseltine -- an ardent champion of Delius' music and indefatigable in proofing his scores and seeing them through the press the previous December. Playing but four minutes, Fantastic Dance is a compact burst of the purest Delian poetry, the opening a sudden sunlit burst of blithesome gaiety rising -- twice -- to an ecstatic climax, projected in a deftly varied play of the most opulent orchestral color. Few things in music express so succinctly, or with such disarmingly offhanded directness, that fiat of radiant joy of which Delius is the undisputed master. A frail invalid confined to his home in Grez-sur-Loing, a village 65 kilometers from Paris, Delius was dependent upon visits from friends, such as Percy Grainger and Balfour Gardiner (who played his music to him in piano-duo transcriptions), Beecham, Bax, Elgar, or Max Beerbohm (among many others), and on the radio, for contact with the world at large, where his works, small and large, were frequently performed. 1931 brought broadcasts of an all-Delius Promenade Concert led by Henry Wood (September 17) -- including the premiere of A Song of Summer -- and Beecham conducting A Mass of Life from Leeds (October 8), lifting his spirits. He could be acidulous when interpretations of his music missed its spirit. For instance, while sufficiently pleased with Adrian Boult's broadcast of Brigg Fair (February 21, 1932) to write the conductor, "I have never heard a better performance," Boult's rendering of Life's Dance was felt to be a misunderstanding, prompting some apprehension that the premiere of Fantastic Dance had been assigned to him. In the upshot, the broadcast, with Boult at the helm, on January 21, 1934, despite poor transmission, was judged a good performance. "Fred was very pleased," Mrs. Delius reported.
Description by Adrian Corleonis