Delius and Norway

By Urberg, Michelle | Notes, March 2020 | Go to article overview

Delius and Norway


Urberg, Michelle, Notes


Delius and Norway. By Andrew J. Boyle. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell, 2017. [xiv, 328 p. ISBN 9781783271993 (hardcover), $80; ISBN 9781787440357 (e-book), $24.99.] Music examples, tables, illustrations, abbreviations, glossary of Norwegian terms, bibliography, index.

Delius and Norway represents five years of research and writing by Andrew Boyle (http://www .andrewjboyle.com/delius-1 [accessed 24 August 2019]). The tone and familiarity with of Boyle's text, however, reflects a much longer relationship with Norway and the music and life of Frederick Delius (1862-1934). Boyle, Scottish by birth, has lived and worked in Norway, not unlike Delius himself, who was born in Bradford, an industrial town in Yorkshire, England, and traveled to Norway twenty times during his lifetime as a source of creative inspiration and physical healing. Although not directly linked in the preface, Delius and Norway seems to be an expansion and maturation of Boyle's dissertation ("A Quest for Innocence: The Music of Frederick Delius 1885-1900" [PhD diss., University of Sheffield, 1984]), which focuses on Delius's music composed before the turn of the twentieth century.

Boyle's work is an addition to the body of Delius scholarship on "placeness" in his music. Two recent monographs on Delius have approached his life and compositions using place as way to focus their arguments. Delius and His Music by Martin Lee-Browne and Paul Guinery (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2014), two long-time participants in the Delius Society and Delius Trust, surveys Delius's entire repertory. It seeks both to analyze Delius's music and to situate his compositions in the extensive travel he conducted to the United States and across Europe. Daniel M. Grimley in Delius and the Sound of Place (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018) focuses on the influence of places like Florida, Germany, France, and Norway on Delius's compositional style. Delius a,nd Norway explores a specific subset of places that influenced his compositional style yet have not been treated in a book-length study to date. According to the Delius Trust website, which keeps a detailed and up-to-date bibliography on Delius scholarship, only two articles and one book chapter feature discussions of Delius and Norway (see http://www.delius.org.uk [accessed 24 August 2019]).

Delius and Norway is organized chronologically but begins with a chapter on the romantic mindset that overtook Western Europe during the nineteenth century and drew travelers to remote, country landscapes for respite from large industrial cities. This mindset is devoted, on one hand, to the open air and natural expanses of rugged countrysides and, on the other, to distinct national identities. Norway- out from under the thumb of Danish rule as of 1814-had been seeking to define itself as separate from Denmark for nearly seventy-five years by the time Delius visited in 1881. During Delius's life, Norway also separated from Sweden (1905). Between 1814 and 1905, composers, writers, and artists were shaping uniquely Norwegian music, literature, and art. The form of language with Norwegian-and not Danish-orthography and grammar known as Nynorsk or Landsmål (language of the people) was gaining acceptance in post-1814 Norway. Indeed, the dictionary and grammar by one of Nynorsk's early champions, Ivar Aasen, were published forty years prior to the time Delius visited Norway. By this measure, Delius was a man of his time, sharing with other contemporaneous Britons a fascination with Norway's "cool, clean air and majestic natural experiences" (p. 2) and the emerging cultural identity Norway was carving out for itself.

Boyle does a fair job of situating Delius's visits in the fin-de-siecle milieu of Norway in the first chapter, "Norway's Awakening," but I found that subsequent chapters do not effectively integrate this cultural moment into Delius's experiences. …

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