Friday, 27 May 2011

Fred. Delius: Two Tales of his Childhood

Fred (or Fritz as he was called by his brothers and sisters) was noted for enjoying lurid stories, or Penny Dreadfuls. [1] Of course, his parents refused to allow the young lad to read them. However he managed to find a way of perusing them that his parents would not find out about. He used to hide his books and magazines in the bed and read them when he was meant to be asleep. We have all done this of course. However, Delius went a stage further. In order not to be caught, he rigged up an 'ingenious contraption of strings and pulleys," by means of which he could turn off the gas-light when he heard his mother approaching. Alas, one night the pulley system did not work, the young lad was caught and the apparatus was confiscated.
Yet while all the while under these boyish spirits, the call of music was never silent. Fritz announced one day that he wanted to learn to play the violin. 'What do you think you can do with a violin?' asked his father. 'I can play it,' answered Fritz.
And so they bought a violin and handed it to Fritz, just to show him he could not play it. It was the first time he had ever touched a violin, but he surprised them all by playing a tune on it at once. So he was allowed to have lessons [2] and he was only twelve years old when he played a trio with the greatest living violinist and cellist. [3]
[1] Thomas Beecham suggests that this literature included Wild West stories, mystery thrillers, and his favourite, Sweeney Todd!
[2] From a certain Mr Bauerkeller from the Halle.
[3] Probably Alfredo Piatti (1822-1901) the cellist and Joseph Joachim (1831-1907) the violinist, composer and conductor
With thanks to the unnamed author in 'The Young Musician' January 1936

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