Exploring Frederick Delius (1862-1934)

This is the page for my journal on exploring Delius as I work towards my concert project, Delius and Gauguin –A Conversation



29th February - Sonata for violin and piano No.3, in Nashville

Here in Nashville, I am so fortunate to be working with inspiring musicians from Royal Academy of Music and Blair School of Music. Today I had the opportunity to play and discuss Delius' 3rd Sonata with the violinist Peter Sheppard Skaerved. This was such an inspiring session, as Peter guided me through many details in order to discover my "Delius sound".


This sonata was written in 1930, towards the last few years of his life when Delius was already blind and paralyzed. Everything was dictated to Eric Fenby, and starting from the opening melody of the 2nd movement in this sonata, their collaboration began followed by 6 other works including A Song of Summer for orchestra. There is such an interesting mix of feelings portrayed through his harmony, which made me intersted in making a comparison to Gauguin's colours.


Peter pointed out several times about fitting the melody in the context of harmony in the piano part, which is essential in playing any sonatas but especially in producing the mysterious and dark colours in this piece, and in association with Gauguin's mysterious colours, I realised it is important for each note to emerge out of the harmony and not just float on top of it. This is what makes the "Delius sound" so expressive and Gauguin's colour so intense!


As this sonata was dedicated to May Harrison, who was also the editor along with Eric Fenby, there are fingerings on the score which indicate Delius' musical intention. From these fingerings we could also get the sense of the style of playing, such as the use of portamento. Interestingly, as Peter pointed out, Harrison leaves out fingerings which are more "obvious" in places where portamento would be used as part of the natural musicality. Therefore, all of these fingerings indicated on the score imply a lot about phrasing, colours and style which contribute to the making of a "Delius sound".


This is the beginning of my journey with this sonata - more updates to follow!