Tempo (New Series)

Research Article

Delius's Requiem1

Anthony Payne

With the advent at the turn of the century of compositional techniques that depended to a large extent on nervous and sensual responses, great problems were incurred at the psychological moment when a composer found that his nerves were not quickening with their former vibrancy, or else became aware, as possibly in the case of Debussy, that he was no longer able to trust in his private sense-world. If such a crisis is not to lead to a psychological and artistic cul-de-sac, in the attempted recreation of a past condition, a realignment is needed of conscious intellectual workings and the composer's natural responses. In the case of Debussy this process led to a language in which elements whose sole original purpose had been to embody his sense-world were now intellectually reshuffled to shore his personality against ruin. In other words they were stripped of their sensuous meaning and combined to form a consciously constructed art which would fill the newly apparent void. To uncomprehending ears this artistic change merely represented a falling off in inspiration, for the ripe sensual response to life and the world about is commonly believed to be synonymous with inspiration. The lack of sensuality in late works like the piano studies was recognised but not properly construed, the heroic constructive effort ignored.

Footnotes

1 Delius's Requiem, composed in 1914–16 and dedicated “To the memory of all young artists fallen in the war”, was first performed at a Royal Philharmonic Concert on 23 March 1922, but thereafter totally disappeared from view until it was revived at a concert of the Liverpool Philharmonic Society on 9 November last year. The only other recorded performance is one in New York on 6 November 1950. A study score with German and English texts has recently been published by Boosey & Hawkes, price ten shillings.