Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Frederick Delius (1862-1934) began his career as a composer of songs and continued writing them at intervals throughout his life. Generally, he concentrated on one language at a time, setting Norwegian, French, Danish, German, and English poems. This study has shown that a relationship exists between the events of Delius’s life and his use of a particular language for his song text3.

The nine songs chosen to be analyzed are representative of the various language groups. Through analysis of form, harmonic relationships, cadences, key centers, accompaniment texture, melody, and mood the songs were divided into two general groups. Comparisons were drawn between the characteristics of the early songs of the first group and the more mature style of the later songs in the second group.

The first group includes "The Nightingale" (1888), "Twilight; Fancies" (1889), "Hidden Love" (1889), and "Love's Philosophy" (1891). The settings of these four are strophic. The key areas are firmly established with use of pedal and traditional harmonic progressions. Harmonic cadences occur at the ends of the vocal phrases.

"Le ciel est, par-dessus le Coit" (1895), "Black Rcses" (1901), "Summer Landscape" (1902), "The Nightingale has a Lyre of Gold" (1910), and "So white, so soft, so sweet is she" (1915) comprise the second group. These songs are through-composed. The ends of the main sections in each piece cadence, but the vocal phrases within these sections do not. Key areas are not established.

The texture of the piano accompaniment is very important in establishing the mood and defining the main sections of all of the songs. Chromatic bass movement and half-step movements in the inner voices is used in both groups for harmonic color.

Despite the many criticisms aimed at Delius's vocal works, many of the songs, particularly the Norwegian and French songs, reveal a sensitive and singable approach to the spirit of the text. Delius's songs deserve a place in the history of song literature as some of the most original and personal vocal music to be written during the late Romantic period.