BOOK REVIEW / A battered fjord concertina: 'Grieg and Delius' - Lionel Carley: Marion Boyars, 19.95 pounds

BORN in Yorkshire of German parents, married to a German wife, and living and dying in France, the national allegiances of Fritz Delius (as Frederick was christened) have always been a little confusing. Most of the letters in this Chronicle of their Friendship in Letters were written in the last decade of the last century. And at this period a strong passion for Norway and Denmark confused the picture even more; 'Mr Delius,' The Daily News stated categorically in 1899, 'is of Scandinavian parentage'.

Certainly the Scandinavian influence was strong. In musical terms it came almost entirely from Edvard Grieg, whom Delius had met in Leipzig in 1888 while he was studying at the Conservatory and Grieg was visiting the city. 'There's Mr and Mrs Grieg,' said the Norwegian composer Christian Sinding as he and Delius strolled towards lunch one morning. And from then on Delius and the Griegs - those 'two quite small people', in Delius's words, were firm friends.

Delius's already firm enthusiasm for the Fjords bound him to the the older man's heart, and every evening for the next few months the two met after dinner to consolidate their relationship with rubbers of whist.

Their friendship was vitally important to the younger composer in particular. 'I tell you frankly,' Delius wrote to Grieg a year or so after Leipzig, 'never in my life have I met a nature which has won all my love as yours has. I have become egotistic without realising it & you are the only man who has ever changed that & awakened the feelings which I now have for you.'

Established as an up-and-coming Bohemian in Paris, but still very much in with the Scandinavians (Munch was his particular friend), Delius even started dedicating songs to Mrs Grieg, a renowned singer. 'Her name,' Grieg was forced to reply to the first manuscript that arrived inscribed for his wife, 'is Nina not Lina'. The lad soon got the hang of it. And so it went on. Scores shunted between Paris and Troldhaugen, the Griegs' retreat near Bergen (the two composers were quite capable of going for years without actually hearing each other's music) and Grieg became a responsible, if not - on paper at least - a detailed, critic of the young men's work. 'One or two things will come over very well,' he comments on one composition: 'it is only as concerns the piece as a whole that I have my doubts'.

The intimate of Kings and Queens, of Brahms, Tchaikovsky and Bruckner, Grieg's opinion no doubt carried weight with the young composer. Certainly it made an impression on Herr Delius, Senior: it was Grieg, after all, who had persuaded him, over dinner in the Metropole Hotel in London, that young Fritz should be preserved from service in the family wool firm and launched on a musical career with a continued stipend from Papa.

The relationship and the letter- writing between Delius and the Griegs cools considerably after not much more than five years. A less than respectful treatment by Delius of the Norwegian national anthem, suggests Lionel Carley, may have affronted the nationalist Grieg; though the older composer's description of Delius - a talented 'and modern' musician - perhaps hides a deeper reason. The generations were going their inevitable different ways, and Ninna Grieg's attempt at continuing the correspondence, with maternal, possibly envious, enquiries about the young man's love affairs is met with a half-hearted response at best.

The story of these letters is not, it must be said, a very dramatic one. Quite a number of them have appeared already, in the same editor's Delius: A Life in Letters, and one can't help wondering whether the full treatment - 'visiting card with addresses in Grieg's hand' and all - is entirely merited.

Deliophiles, Griegophiles and similar will no doubt rejoice; and the biography of both composers is fuller as a result. But our understanding of their music and personalities is not much altered. A few good paragraphs and a couple of plumpish footnotes might have done the trick. An entire Chronicle was taking things just a bit too far.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, Countess of Grantham and Richard E Grant as Simon Bricker

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Art
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard, nicknamed by the press as 'Dirty Diana'

Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
The X Factor 2014 judges: Simon Cowell, Cheryl Cole, Mel B and Louis Walsh

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace was caught by a camera van driving 32mph over the speed limit

TV
Arts and Entertainment
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Iain reacts to his GBBO disaster

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Outlaw Pete is based on an eight-minute ballad from Springsteen’s 2009 Working on a Dream album

books
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012

film
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Chief inspector of GPs: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

    Steve Field: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

    The man charged with inspecting doctors explains why he may not be welcome in every surgery
    Stolen youth: Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing

    Stolen youth

    Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing
    Bob Willoughby: Hollywood's first behind the scenes photographer

    Bob Willoughby: The reel deal

    He was the photographer who brought documentary photojournalism to Hollywood, changing the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
    Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

    Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

    Scorsese in the director's chair with De Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
    Angelina Jolie's wedding dress: made by Versace, designed by her children

    Made by Versace, designed by her children

    Angelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
    Anyone for pulled chicken?

    Pulling chicks

    Pulled pork has gone from being a US barbecue secret to a regular on supermarket shelves. Now KFC is trying to tempt us with a chicken version
    9 best steam generator irons

    9 best steam generator irons

    To get through your ironing as swiftly as possible, invest in one of these efficient gadgets
    England v Norway: Wayne Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

    Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

    New captain vows side will deliver for small Wembley crowd
    ‘We knew he was something special:’ Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing

    ‘We knew he was something special’

    Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing
    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York