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