Sunday, 25 October 2015

Gerald Cumberland on Frederick Delius.

In his volume of witty essays, reminiscences and anecdotes, Set in Malice (1918) Gerald Cumberland (1879-1926) (pseudonym of Charles Frederick Kenyon) discussed a wide variety of artists, writers and composers. At the time of writing this book, Cumberland was music and drama critic at the Daily Critic.
This short paragraph about Delius is of interest in that it largely reinforces the standard image of the composer as a loner, a somewhat difficult person to engage with and a unique voice in British music that influenced few subsequent composers. All these clichés are open for debate and discussion. However Cumberland’s sketch holds interest because he actually had lunch with Delius in a Liverpudlian café.

'Frederick Delius, a Yorkshireman, has chosen to live most of his artistic life abroad, and for this reason is not familiarly known to his countrymen, though he is a great personage in European music. A pale man, ascetic, monkish; a man with a waspish wit; a man who allows his wit to run away with him so far that he is tempted to express opinions he does not really hold.
I met him for a short hour in Liverpool, where, over food and drink snatched between a rehearsal and a concert, he showed a keen intellect and a fine strain of malice. Like most men of genius, he is curiously self-centred, and I gathered from his remarks that he is not particularly interested in any music except his own. He is (or was) greatly esteemed in Germany, and if in his own country he has not a large following, he alone is to blame.He is a man who pursues a path of his own, indifferent to criticism, and, perhaps indifferent to indifference.Decidedly a man of most distinguished intellect and a quick, eager but not responsive personality, but not a musician who marks an epoch as does Richard Strauss, and not a man who has formed a school, as Debussy has done.'

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