Letter from Delius to Szántó (1908)


Frederick Delius’s Piano Concerto in C minor is a work with a long and complex history of revisions and disputes. It was originally conceived as a one-movement Fantasy for Orchestra and Pianoforte (1897), but never performed in this version. The first performance was of a revised version in three movements, and took place in Elberfeld, Germany, conducted by Hans Haym and with Julius Buths playing the solo part. Before publication and another performance by the dedicatee, Théodor Szántó, in 1907, further substantial revisions were made, creating a 'compromise', as Thomas Beecham saw it. The 1907 version returned to the single movement form, but kept the more classical key scheme of the three-movement version. It also incorporated a new final section, and extensive editing of the solo part by Szántó.

This letter from Delius to Szántó, written in German and illustrated with musical examples, details Delius’s emphatic rejection of some of Szántó’s efforts to make an arrangement of the concerto. Delius remarks that where Szántó has doubled a trumpet line in the horn “that always sounds bad," and that many places “have become very feeble." The letter is significant for demonstrating Delius's concern for the effect of his works in performance, a concern that conductor Sir Thomas Beecham felt that the composer frequently lacked.


Transcript and translation from the original German, kindly provided by Lionel Carley

Grez sur Loing

Seine & Marne

28 Sept 08

Dear Szántó

I received your card this afternoon & have returned the Concerto score to you accordingly It must first be played before it goes to press. The alterations seem to me to have been made quite well although there are a lot of rather unnecessary minor changes. In a few places the harmony will be too weak - . I have sketched in a few notes in haste. I would like to have the score back after the performance & also hear how you felt it sounded. For example right at the beginning I had a trumpet [playing] the triplet

Music example 1 (transcribed) from Frederick Delius' letter to Thomas Szántó, 28 September 1908

 Now there is a horn below it too, that always sounds bad - horn & trumpet - rather than 2 trumpets in that case! There are many such details in the colouring which I would not have done - Then you have at the place where the 1st horn & celli play a counter-theme together in the slow movement - 2 horns playing it. It never sounds so good & then you have 1st & 2nd horn. 2nd horn is low & will not be able to play the high D flat or will split. The good alterations are those where the orchestra is rather toned down so that the piano comes through better. The violin solo that you wanted extended will sound weak & it sounded fine as it was, after all. & the place 

Music example 2 (transcribed) from Frederick Delius' letter to Thomas Szántó, 28 September 1908

at the end & all these tutti places have become very feeble. As I said, I must have the score back before it goes to press - I thank you & Herr Genck for the trouble which you have taken & a lot of what you have done I find quite splendid, it is only that I see a few things which will make the thing better still. With kind regards & wishing you much success


Frederick Delius

I am afraid I have no score of the Concerto & you have pasted a lot over. Now that I am conducting it I will try to conduct the Concerto myself & to have you engaged as soloist - We are sure to have success with it -

Full title:
Letter from Frederick Delius to Thomas Szántó regarding his Piano Concerto
1983, London
Scolar Press in association with the Delius Trust
28 September 1908, Grez sur Loing
Frederick Delius
© Delius Trust
Usage terms

© The Delius Trust and Lionel Carley (translation from German to English).  Reproduced with permission.

Except as otherwise permitted by your national copyright law, this material may not be copied or distributed further.

Held by
Library of Congress
ML94.S97 Case

Related articles

Delius in performance

Article by:
Joanna Bullivant
Musical style, Performance and reception

Joanna Bullivant explores how Delius’s compositions were brought to life by various interpreters. Did he give his performers enough information and how important are the contributions made by the famous musicians with whom he worked?

Related people

Related works

Piano Concerto in C minor

Frederick Delius, Piano Concerto in C minor Created by: Frederick Delius

Frederick Delius’s Piano Concerto in C minor is a work with a long and complex history of revisions and ...