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THE GRAMOPHONE Incorporating V 0 X. THE R A 0 I 0 C R I TIC and B R 0 AD CAS T REV lEW
Gerrard 213e, ~13i'
COMPTON MACKENZIE and CHRISTOPHER STONE Parmaxto. Rath London
IAM not sure that it is fair to the majority of our readers to inflict upon them any more arguments about the quality of Delius as a composer; but as the enterprise of the Delius Society deserves publicity and as controversy sometimes stirs up curiosity I do not want to seem averse from according . it that publicity and thus raising that curiosity.
I had thought my allusions in the February number to Appalachia were so mild and so modest that the Delian Diehards 'yould not bother to expend ammunition on them. I was wrong. as the following letter reveals !
"Opinions founded on prejudice are always sustained with the greatest violence. We have known for some time that Mr. Compton Mackenzie has been prejudiced against the music of Delius, [or he seldom allows an opportunity to say something unfavourable about i t to pass him by. His prejudice, we venture to suggest, is founded on the [act that he considers that Delius ruined Whitman's "Sea-Drift ." We allow for the fact that Mr. Mackenzie is more of a poet than a musician, and that, as he has himself observed, poets seldom have an ear for music; but we consider it highly unfortunate that he should have chosen the columns of THE GRAMOPHONE as an airing ground for · his irrational obsessions, and that he should have also shown himself hostile to the enterprises of the Delius Society.
" Mr. Mackenzie is entitled to express his views on l i terary matters with the authority born of a vast experience. But we pay no more attention to his pronouncements on music than we would to a dissertation by the Astronomer Royal on the subject of Cezanne's brushwork.
" His passionate bigotry ruins his arguments. Thc views of extremists are never worth the paper they are written on; their desire to prove their point at all costs, and their inability to temper their judgment with the views of their opponents quite eclipses any sense of values they may normally possess. I t occurs to us that Mr. Mackenzie will attempt to accuse us of blind worship of Delius' music. For that reason we must record the fact that we do hot claim for him a position among the very greatest composers. We acknowledge the superiority of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Bruckner, and we are perfectly able to realise the occasional weaknesses of Delius' music. That does not prevent us, however, from considering him to be the greatest English composer since Purcell.
"Does Mr. Mackenzie realise that his inability to listen to Appalachia without being reminded of some Irish ballad he knew first and of the quartet [rom Rigoletto is not Delius' fault but his own? Anyone with the haziest sense of proportion would not be put off by these slight similarities. We assume that he cannot enjoy the finale of Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto to the full because of the similarity of one passage to " Twinkle, twinkle little star" and that he would feel that the E major Fugue in the second book o[ the " 48 " is not a real masterpiece because of the note for note resemblance to " Rule Britannia" in the last bars. There are innumerable examples in music of this sort of thing, but we never realised before that otherwise responsible people held the view that similarity, however slight, between two objects was an artistic disqualification to one or both of them.
" Regarding the question whether Delius' music will survive, we find Mr. Mackenzie making statements Diametrically opposed to those of the onc man who completely understands Delius' work, which, to say the least, is rather revealing. We know whom we would back for a winner, particularly in view of the fact that Sir Thomas Beecham's vast experience of the music of all periods would enable him to place the mus~c of Dclius in its right place on the artistic map. But If, by some remote chance, Mr. Mackenzie should happen to be right, and in view of the fact that he will not be alive to reap the full harvest of his triumph, we hereby acknowledge him to be a modern Cassandraa commercial traveller in catastrophe.
DENIS WOOD FREDK. J. DYMOND GEOFFREY SIIARP
MARY HOUGHTON BRIAN DOUQLAS