Jan 29

The Land of Constant Longing

ANDREW BOYLE, Comments: 4
(On the 150th anniversary 
of the birth of 
Frederick Delius)

"I have tried to express the joy and exhilaration one feels in the mountains [of Norway] and also the loneliness and melancholy of the high Solitudes and the grandeur of the wide far distances."    Frederick Delius, 1920

"I should never think of settling too far from my beloved Norway and the light summer nights and all the poetry and melancholy of the Northern summers and the high mountain plateaus where humans are rare and more individual than in any other country in the world, and where they also have deeper and more silent feelings than in any other country in the world."    Frederick Delius, 1918

On an overcast day in mid-August 1923 an extraordinary group of four people are making their way up the slope of Liahovdene, rising steeply from the Romsdalen valley. Three of them are carrying the fourth, a tall, 60-year old man who is seated in a chair supported by two carrying poles. Frederick Delius had already lost much of the strength in his legs and was beginning to lose his eyesight too. For one last time he wanted to see a sunset over Norwegian mountain tops, and these three companions were determined to help him as far as they could. All day they struggled up the slope to the summit, only to discover that at the critical moment clouds were restricting their view of the sun. And then, just as the sun was dipping behind the peaks of the Tafjord range, clouds parted and Frederick Delius' last visit to Norway was concluded as he had hoped. (The photo shows a reconstruction from a film I made for NRK).

I am often asked why I came to Norway in 1980, and people are quick to suggest that it was probably because of a woman in my life. The running joke has always been to reply that, yes, it was because of a woman. And that her name was Margaret Thatcher. But it's an amusing lie. The truth of the matter is that I stayed in Norway because of Thatcher. I came here because of a man. I was writing my doctoral thesis on the early works of Delius, and no study of the composer can get off the ground without an in-depth understanding of all that Norway meant to him.

As was the case with his mentor Edvard Grieg, much of the music of Frederik Delius is inspired by Norwegian nature and culture. After Grieg he is the most internationally renowned composer to have written large amounts of music indebted to Norwegian experiences. On the BBC and in many concert halls in England and USA works of Delius were performed today. A new large-scale documentary is being filmed at this moment in England. And throughout every phase of his life and like a recurring theme throughout his catalogue of works: Norway, Norway, Norway.

As a young man Delius spent his summers treking on the Hardanger Plateau, provoking Grieg to give him the nickname The Hardanger Plateau Man. In later years he would favour the Jotunheimen and eventually the gentler nature around Romsdalen valley. He had a cottage built there in 1922 but, as mentioned above, would only be able to enjoy two summers there.

His wife called Norway "the land of his constant longing".

Comments: 4

Bill Thompson

Jan 30
Andrew, thanks for your efforts on behalf of Delius and his music. Delius belongs to all of us - Norway, America, England, France, Germany and the world. A feeling of "Constant Longing" is found often in his music.

bonnie brauer

Jan 30
Andrew ~ We are so glad you went to Norway and stayed. It is the only country I would like to see/hike in. Can we view the film you made? The still shot is simply beautiful; a work of art in itself. Constant longing ~ yes ~


Feb 01
Thanx for your comments, Bill and Bonnie! I will endeavour to get the old film onto youtube soon! I've got to work out how to subtitle... Enjoy thge celebrations!

bonnie brauer

Feb 05
Andrew ~ we will look forward to your captions on your film. Keep us up to date; all of us Delians will want to see it, I know ~
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