Monday, June 09, 2014


Frederick Delius, a composer I knew little of, but found reading about his life and work absorbing, especially when his interest in astrology came into the picture, briefly. He wasn't born around this time of year, but he died on 10 June, in 1934, so tomorrow will be the 80th anniverary of his death.

Delius, a Yorkshireman, born into a wealthy wool-merchant's family in Bradford, West Yorkshire, England on 29 January 1862. He was never a Yorkshireman in spirit though, possibly due to his parental roots in Germany. He lived and worked across Europe and in the USA. Germany, France, Scandinavia, Florida and their landscapes all eventually filtered their influences into his music. He had to struggle to follow his passion to be a musician, the career in his family's business, desired for him by his father, did not appeal to young Delius.

From brief bio by Alexander Carpenter at All
Delius, however, wanted to study music, and though his father did not approve of music as a profession, he did not discourage music-making as a pastime; thus, Delius was allowed to study the violin and the piano. To his father's dismay, he also spent much of his youth sneaking away from school to attend concerts and opera performances. When he completed school, he went to work for his father in the family business. In 1884, he left England for Florida, where he worked on a plantation as an orange grower. While in Florida, he began studying music with Thomas Ward, a musician and teacher from Jacksonville. Delius proved to be a failure as an orange grower, and began supporting himself as a musician. In 1886, his father arranged for him to spend a year and a half studying music in Germany at the Leipzig Conservatory. Though Delius would later insist that he learned very little of importance during his stay in Leipzig, it was there that he met Grieg, with whom he forged a lifelong friendship. Grieg convinced Delius' father to allow the young man to become a composer, and Delius, with the support of his formerly reluctant father, soon moved to Paris and began living the life of an artist.

Once in Paris, Delius began composing in earnest, and towards the end of the nineteenth century had already completed two operas, Irmelin and The Magic Fountain. In the first decade of the twentieth century, Delius married the painter Jelka Rosen and produced a number of important works....... His music was well-received throughout Europe, and Delius was quite successful up until World War I, when he was forced to leave France for England. Despite his renown in continental Europe, Delius was virtually unknown in his native England, and his stay there was marred by financial difficulties. After the war, Delius returned to France, where the syphilis he had contracted in Florida gradually caused him to become paralyzed and blind. Ironically, as Delius became increasingly infirm, his fame began to spread. This was due in large part to the efforts of English composer Sir Thomas Beecham, who championed Delius' music and organized a Delius Festival in 1929. ..............Towards the end of his life, Delius was made Companion of Honor by King George V of England, and was awarded an honorary degree in music by Oxford University. Before his death, Delius was able to hear his music over the radio and on record, but these accomplishments paled before the terrible deterioration of his health, and he died in seclusion.

The composer's interest in astrology came to light via a list of biographical events HERE:
1892: Widens his circle of both smart (mainly lady) friends and members of the Scandinavian artistic community based at Molard’s studio in the Rue Vercingetorix in Montparnasse. Acquires an interest in astrology and occultism.
Then I found this by Adrian Corleonis at All Music

..................Delius entered the fabled decade of the 1890s embracing the life of a bohemian artist, living on the outskirts of Paris and consorting with a fantastic array of artists and eccentrics. By the opening of the 1890s........Gauguin, Mucha, Munch, Strindberg, Florent Schmitt (whom Delius engaged to make piano transcriptions of his operas), Jean Richepin (demimonde poet and Chabrier's sometime librettist), Richard Le Gallienne, and Gérard Encausse were boon companions. Under the pseudonym Papus, the latter was an intrepid negotiator of the occult crosscurrents rife through the 1890s and into the twentieth century. Satie wrote music for Papus' Kabbalistic Order of the Rose-Croix and in 1894 Encausse published Anatomie et physiologie de l'orchestra, co-authored with Delius. Always industrious, by 1893 Delius had all but abandoned composition to throw himself wholeheartedly into the study of astrology and was soon casting horoscopes for friends. Strindberg was a student of alchemy and claimed to have performed alchemical transmutations, though it is also known that (like Gustav Meyrink) he took literally the alchemists' enigmatic direction that the Philosopher's Stone -- the agent of transmutation -- is "found in filth" and delved in ancient water closets. Delius opera The Magic Fountain, which occupied him over 1893-1895, is, not coincidentally, concerned with a quest for the Fountain of Youth.........Summer excursions in the Norwegian mountains provided bracing relief from this decadent hothouse, reflected in the sense of vast distance, Nature's mysterious quietude, and heroic derring-do beneath clear sunlit skies palpable in "Over the Hills and Far Away".

The book, co-authored by Delius and Dr Gerard Encausse aka "Papus", published in 1894 by Chamuel, Paris is hard to find these days. Reference to its content state that the book attempts to assign elements/signs/houses to the different sections of the orchestra and their combinations. (See HERE)


I've used the data from, giving birth time as 9:00AM with a "C" rating - not 100% reliable but it'll do for now.

A search threw up some paragraphs relevant to Delius from astrologer Liz Greene's book The Astrological Neptune and the Quest for Redemption.

I shall not expand on that, other than to say Ms Greene didn't mention his interest in astrology, possibly because the book's focus was on Neptune. So I shall mention it.

I think, due to my own experience, that Delius felt a draw towards astrology via his Aquarius Sun and Mercury, further strengthened by the fact that his Sun was in harmonious trine to Aquarius's modern ruler Uranus in Gemini. The Moon/Neptune sextile mentioned by Ms Greene helped too, as well as (if birth time used is near correct), his Pisces ascendant. These Neptune/Pisces elements drew him towards the mystic, which, I guess, brought him into contact with others who knew of astrology.

(This post went on a bit longer than usual, so it'll stand for Tuesday as well).


mike said...

My neighborhood was electron-free today...a transformer blew-out early this morning and electricity wasn't flowing until 5 PM! One more reason for my own personal solar panels.

I read the Wiki for Jelka Rosen and it has some additional info:

I looked at Wiki to see if she contracted syphilis, but she had cancer, then died of pneumonia upon Delius' second burial. Weird. Her Wiki page states that Delius was a womanizer and had many affairs.

Not surprising that he was into astrology...seems that everyone in those decades was into occultism, spiritualism, or some such. I read somewhere that the Civil War and WWI lured many into seeking contact with their war-dead...seances were big...even Lincoln and his wife held seances at the White House.

Twilight said...

mike ~ Those electricity outages are annoying and random - we get them sometimes too....makes one realise how much we have made ourselves rely on electricity.

They were a sad couple in the end, yes.
I suppose he was his day's version of our rock stars, living the life of Riley, with an early version of groupies always at his beck and call.

Yes, that period - late 1800s, early 1900s - was full of woo-woo. I think the Theosophists were responsible for much of it. Probably there was something in the astrological air too. :-)