Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Frederick Delius: In a Summer Garden

I recently read in Martin Lee-Browne and Paul Guinery’s magisterial study, Delius and his Music (The Boydell Press, 2014) that the tone-poem In a Summer Garden had a number of working titles before the composer settled on the current one. I had not realised this.
These included:-  Summer Night, Rhapsody, Summer Sounds, Summer Rhapsody, A Summer Eve, A Summer Song, Summer, On a Summer’s Eve and A Song of Summer. This last option was eventually used in a different work written with the help of Delius’ amanuensis, Eric Fenby in 1929.
The working title of the present piece was ‘Summernight -slowly with simplicity.’  Browne and Guinery suggest that A Summer Rhapsody was the composer’ preferred title. It is not known when Delius opted for In a Summer Garden, however this is the title that was used in the work’s premiere and has not changed since, in spite of the fact that the score was revised four years later.
The score of the In a Summer Garden include two quotations which may or may not inform the listener’s pleasure. The first is from one of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s sonnets:-
‘All are my blooms; and all sweet blooms of love.
To thee I gave while Spring and Summer sang.’

The second was probably penned, in German, by Delius himself:-
‘Roses, lilies, and a thousand sweet scented flowers. Bright butterflies, flitting from petal to petal and gold-brown bees murmuring in the warm, quivering summer air. Beneath the shade of the old trees, a quiet river with water-lilies. In a boat, almost hidden, two people. A thrush is singing- in the distance.

I have always imagined this work to be about an English garden, however the facts are that it was Delius’ summer garden at Grez-sur-Loing in France that gave the inspiration.

In a Summer Garden was first heard at a Royal Philharmonic Concert given at in 11 December 1908. The composer conducted. My favourite version of this piece is by the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Anthony Collins. 

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