Delius: Composer, Lover, Enigma [also known as The Pleasures of Delius]

2012   BBC Four

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The composer Frederick Delius is often pictured as the blind, paralysed and caustic old man he eventually became.  But in his youth he was tall, energetic, handsome and charming – not Frederick at all for most of his life, but Fritz.  He was a contemporary of Elgar and Mahler, yet forged his own musical language, with which he always tried to capture the pleasure of the moment.  Using evidence from his friend, the Australian composer Percy Grainger, who reported that Delius “practised immorality with puritanical stubbornness”, this film by John Bridcut explores the multiple contradictions of his colourful life.  Delius has long been renowned for his depiction of the natural environment, with pieces such as On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring, yet his music is usually steeped in the sensuality and eroticism that he himself experienced.  This feature-length documentary features specially-filmed performances by the widely-acclaimed Danish interpreters of Delius, the Aarhus Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Bo Holten, as well as the chamber choir, Schola Cantorum of Oxford, and the violinist Philippe Graffin.



Director of Photography Jonathan Partridge
Orchestral Sound Claus Byrith
Orchestral Lighting Henrik Viero
Sound Paul Paragon, Bob Newton
Dubbing Mixer Guus Hoevenaars
Film Editor Samuel Santana
Production Manager Alexandra Bridcut, Claire Birch
Research Laurent Tabet
Assistant Producer Cat Dixon
BBC Commissioning Executive Adam Barker
Executive Producer Magnus Temple
Written, narrated and directed by John Bridcut

A Crux production (1 x 90')  

The Crux DVD of this film is available through the Crux online shop, or from Gonzo Multimedia


'Three excellent films – we’re watching as well as listening – on British composers by the documentary film-maker John Bridcut, made about a decade ago, have been issued on DVD: Elgar, The Man Behind the MaskThe Pleasures of Delius; and The Passions of Vaughan Williams.

'Bridcut, who made last year’s BBC Four documentary Jonas Kaufmann: Tenor for the Ages, has a talent for telling personal stories: Elgar’s love of the woman he called “Windflower” and his insistence on having a “death bed” photo while he was in fact still alive to mastermind it; Delius’s strange marriage and taste for all things “exotic”, with all that the word implies; Vaughan Williams and the complexities of falling madly in love with Ursula, nearly 40 years younger and equally, if not more, smitten.

'Yet Bridcut’s primary gift is to bring the music of these composers alive, weaving archive footage with specially filmed performance and deft contributions from a handful of musicians well able to knock down all the myths and prejudices. These commentators are passionate as well as scholarly, among them the composer and Elgar authority Anthony Payne, the conductor Mark Elder, who puts as powerful a case for Delius as you’ll find, as well as the late Michael Kennedy and Richard Hickox and, from the archive,Thomas Beecham. Ursula Vaughan Williams, shortly before her death aged 96 in 2007 after half a century of widowhood, recalls the taxi ride in which RVW first kissed her, in 1938, as if it were yesterday. These invaluable films make you rethink the music. They are, too, engrossing to watch.'

Fiona Maddocks, The Observer

'A superlative documentary by John Bridcut which sheds light on the contradictory nature of the composer...  Watch this wonderful programme to find out why it was with great relief that the young Fritz "escaped" to Florida in 1884 on the pretext of entering the citrus trade and what happened next'

Mike Bradley, The Observer

'Following his two magnificent documentaries, Britten's Children and Elgar: The Man Behind the Mask, the film-maker John Bridcut has taken on his most ambitious project to date – to resurrect the work of Frederick Delius....  Bridcut's film is a passionate polemic in celebration of a one-off – a wholly unclassifiable genius'

David Chater, The Times

'John Bridcut has written and directed portraits of Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Britten and Parry, all of course British composers, so it was inevitable he'd add Delius to that list.  But as this superb film points out, it's hard to know if Delius was really British at all'

Patrick Mulkern, Radio Times

'John Bridcut's hugely engaging documentary... There is plenty of Delius's music to enjoy here, and Bridcut's regular contributors give their expert opinions on a much underrated composer.   A delightful 90 minutes with an intriguing sybarite'

Jonathan Lennie, Time Out

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