I discovered today that I have managed to skip straight past two gorgeous composers – Debussy and Delius. This is because of various quirks in the current set up of my iPhone listings which I won’t bore you with here in detail – suffice to say that the albums had been listed under the artist rather than the composer. Following a bit of iTunes sorting out, I have now recitifed this oversight and these two chaps are now nestling in their rightful places between Deacon Blue, del Amitri and Dido.
So we now need to do a bit of catching up.
Frederick Delius was an English composer; Claude Debussy was French. They were both born in 1862 and died in 1934 and 1918 respectively.
In many respects, the musical styles of these composers have little in common. Delius tends to favour a fuller scoring, with rich chords, whether in his orchestral works or in his solo instrumental works. Whereas Debussy usually presents a lighter, more diaphanous style. This does not, however, mean that his work was not serious. He is widely regarded as one of the most influencial composers of the 20th century, with threads of his music finding their way into jazz and even hip hop.
But let’s for a moment compare two of these composers’ most famous pieces – Delius’s On Hearing The First Cuckoo In Spring (I have this on the album Minatures (1990)) and Debussy’s Prelude A L’apres-midi d’un faun from Debussy for Daydreaming (1995). Both works are utterly delightful, playful and emotive examples of music as poetry. In the latter case, the piece is indeed inspired by the poem L’apres-midi d’un faune by Stephane Mallarme. And Delius’s work is classed as a type of music known as a ‘tone poem’ – an orchestral work in a single continuous section where a story or poem is invoked.
The rest of the music on both these albums is equally pleasing. Not all of the tracks can be so closely compared. But they certainly make an interesting pairing. And a wonderful listen for a couple of hours or so. I’m very glad I managed to come back to them.