I used to have an LP of composer Frederick Delius’ music, conducted by Thomas Beecham, which I played when I was in the mood for very peaceful, pastoral music. The LP disappeared over the years as we downsized our belongings, but I still enjoy the composer's music on anthologies of English music like the "English String Miniatures" series on the Naxos label. Today is the sesquicentennial of Delius’ birth, which I learned from the cover story of the new Gramophone magazine (February 2012). In that article, Jeremy Dibble, whom I quoted a few posts back, recounts Delius’ international travels and artistic influences.
I looked around the internet for other articles about Delius, to read later. A website devoted to Delius, http://thompsonian.info/delius.html, includes two links: an article by Emanuel E. Garcia, “Frederick Dilius: Devotion, Collaboration and the Salvation of Music," at http://thompsonian.info/delius-garcia.html, and an article by Thomas F. Bertonneau, “The High Hills: Frederick Delius and the Secular Sublime," http://thompsonian.info/delius-bertonneau-essay-Word.html
Cellist Julian Lloyd Webber has a nice tribute, “Delius: Beauty in the Ear of the Beholder,” at http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2012/jan/05/delius-fenby-julian-lloyd-webber
He writes, “No other composer polarises opinion like Delius. You either love or loathe his music. And it is rare to find someone who has grown to like it.”
Lloyd Webber comments that Delius’ music has been absent from concert programs, for several reasons. “First and foremost he was a 'nature' composer. The sights and sounds of the countryside permeate his music and, in an age increasingly dominated by all things urban, the concept of 'countryside' becomes ever more obscure.” Also, “Delius's music is never about bombast. He lived most of his life in the leafy lanes of Grez where he would sit in his garden listening to the songs of the birds, often translating their language into music. Some would pour scorn on such a romantic approach, while praising the birdsong-influenced works of Olivier Messiaen."
Another reason is that, “From a musician's point of view, Delius's writing for different instruments is often awkward... the strings are often left to play long, sustained chords and woodwind and brass solos emerge out of the blue, with the players' orchestral parts providing no clue as to their significance. Self-regarding maestros are bemused by the quiet endings of nearly all of his music, which guarantee that there will be no burst of applause at the end." But Lloyd Webber points out that excellent conductors like Beecham, Vernon Handley, Richard Hickox, Charles Mackerras, Andrew Davis, and others have kept his music alive, and other composers like Bartók, Grainger, Kodály and Duke Ellington have praised his music. Lloyd Webber adds, “And when, in 1935, the New York critics hailed George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess as 'the first negro opera' they were wrong – for that singular achievement belonged to Delius's Koanga, composed almost half a century before.”
YouTube has several of Delius’ pieces, like the famous “On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2qsriktzVFw&feature=related"