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on 11 July 2007
This is a truly remarkable story that will appeal, whether or not the reader has any interest in 'serious' music. Fenby brings to life the atmosphere of tension that prevailed in the home of Frederick Delius, a self-absorbed egotist. Although his attitude to the then-blind and paralysed composer bordered on reverence, Fenby never loses his clear-headedness when assessing Delius' faults and idiosyncrasies.

This is a wonderfully-written book that shows Fenby to have been both sensitive and extremely tough. He had to be both to deal with a unique and difficult genius like Delius. The author was fortunate to enter a milieu that brought him into close contact with some of the great names in the music world of the late 1920s and early 30s: Edward Elgar, Peter Warlock, and Percy Grainger. His portraits of these and other musical luminaries are charming and insightful.

Although it was my love of Delius' music that drew me to this book, I found 'Delius as I Knew Him' most rewarding for its insights into its author, who was clearly a good and selfless man.
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This is a reprint of a book that was written as long ago as 1936, and is a fascinating account of Eric Fenby's relationship with Delius as his amanuensis during the final six years of the composer's life. The story of how Fenby, a young musician from Yorkshire, wrote to the blind and paralysed Delius offering his services is well-known, and was immortalised in the film "Song of Summer", but there are insights in the book that no film could reproduce. The work is in four sections. The first of these ("An Interlude in the Life of Frederick Delius", pp.1-127) and the fourth ("The Sundown", pp.213-34) are best read consecutively, as they deal respectively with Fenby's arrival at the composer's home in Grez-sur-Loing, the day-to-day routine, and Delius' decline and death (at which Fenby was present). The image is one of a unique, if often fraught and difficult relationship, in which the composer's creative spirit was revived, making possible some important late works (Songs of Farewell, A Song of Summer, Cynara, Violin Sonata No.3) which would otherwise never have been written. Delius comes across as an aloof, solitary figure who lived for his art, and who depended very much on his longsuffering wife Jelka to organise his daily routine and facilitate his creative periods. In her own way she was as indispensable as Fenby in ensuring that those final works were written. Along the way we meet a string of interesting visitors, including Sir Thomas Beecham, Balfour Gardiner, Philip Heseltine (alias Peter Warlock), Percy Grainger, and "old Raspberry" (actually E.J. Moeran, although Fenby seems not to have known this [p.59]). Even Elgar and Bax put in brief appearances.

The second section of the book ("How He Worked", pp.129-57) is a fascinating account of the working methods developed over some considerable time by Delius and Fenby, liberally illustrated with musical examples, and an appendix to show how a couple of compositions made it from rough sketches to full score - very interesting for the musicologist. In the main the composer seems to have named the individual notes(C, A, F#, etc) in a fever of activity, while Fenby scribbled them down.

The third section ("Some Aspects of the Man and the Composer as I Knew Him", pp.159-211) contains some interesting insights into Fenby's own assessment of Delius as a composer. It is perhaps surprising to learn that, although Fenby is usually perceived as a young devotee, eagerly devouring all that Delius ever wrote, his admiration was remarkably selective, and focuses largely on a comparatively restricted period between 1899-1905 (with exceptions, of course). He certainly knew that Delius could write poor, uninspired music and was not on fire all the time. Perhaps the most curious part of this chapter is a discussion on the comparative merits and demerits of Delius' Nietzschian atheism and Fenby's own unshakeable Christian beliefs. The upshot of this is that Delius would have been a better composer had he been a Christian, which seems to me a strange argument. Fenby laments the lack of joy in Delius' works, and suggests that no composer would have been better fitted to provide this had he had the faith of a Palestrina, or a Victoria. All this is to argue, very oddly to be sure, that no music can be "perfect" unless it has a Christian sub-stratum.

Musicologists and music historians alike will no doubt already be familiar with Fenby's work, but it also makes fascinating "general interest" reading, providing an insight into what was surely one of the most remarkable working relationships in the entire history of music.
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on 8 December 2010
As other reviewers here on Amazon have explained this is a remarkable book. I think that this must rank as one of the greatest ever first hand biographical portraits of human creativity. I can only think of Cosima Wagner's Diaries in the field of music which have the same impact and which provide a similar level of direct insight into the mind of a great creative artist.

The subject matter is quite extraordinary if not unique. A young idealistic musician goes off from his home in Yorkshire to live with a blind and paralysed composer and his wife and help him compose the works that lie locked unformed in the head of the blind and paralysed man. The composer of course is Frederick Delius who himself is a quite extraordinary figure in musical history and was and emerges from these pages as a very strong willed fierce personality despite his infirmities. The book tells the story of how great adversities were overcome, how personaility clashes were resolved and how finally their joint ambition was fulfilled and the music emerged onto the page and then into the concert hall and then finally we have them recorded for our enjoyment at home. Every music lover owes Eric Fenby a debt of gratitude and every one music lover or not owes him adebt for recording so closely what it was like to work witha genius (albeit a very maladroit and awkward genius like Delius)

The setting of the story is the house and garden of Frederick amnd Jelka Delius at Grez-sur-Loing some miles south of Paris. There are three main characters Frederick and Jelka Delius and Fenby. There are visitors such as Percy Grainger and the great Cellist Barjansky. Mostly however the book revolves around the three main characters as they find a way of working and living together seemingly cut off from the outside world in the enchanted (in both the positive and negative sense of that word) house and garden at Grez.

Back in the early 1980s, when I first read this book, a recording of the works composed during this period (1928 - 1934) was made under the baton of an elderly Eric Fenby and I would suggest that any readers interested might like to hunt out that recording to experience the music that came out of the extraordinary musical collaboration that is described in this book. I have just been to my record collection and found that the original vinyl LPs were issued in under the name "The Fenby Legacy". There was also a CD release later in the 1980s. Fenby Legacy

I am adding another product link as the music that Delius created with with the aid of Eric Femby is also available in recordings conducted by Eric fenby himself as part of the Delius Collection Delius Collection

I should also add that there is a much admired BBC film from the 1960s based upon this book. It is called "A Song of Summer" and is directed by Ken Russell. Here is the link Delius - Song Of Summer [DVD] [1968]
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on 21 November 2009
This is a supurb book designed to outline and make present the problems Fenby undertook in dealing with Deilius' illness and their combined efforts to realize Delius' special needs as a composer in horrendous pain and whose life was coming to an end. A wonderfully calm and generous rendition by Eric Fenby on the composer he knew and loved.
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on 15 August 2012
This beautiful story of a young man from Yorkshire (Eric Fenby ) who travels to
France, to meet and his hero Fredrick Delius. His arrival at Grez to the strange
house of delight, where the walls are adorned with the works of Munch and Gauguin
in which the composer lived.He meets the great man who is now blind and chair bound
with syphilis. In time the young Eric with the help of Delius doting wife Jelka inspire the
great composer to complete his last master piece's.
Hope you enjoy this book and you like me find your Song of Summer.Delius as I Knew Him
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on 24 March 2012
I bought this book after viewing the recent video on his life with Delius and I found it absolutely fascinating. Eric Fenby gives such an honest and insightful account of his relationship with Delius. One was able to enter into their world.
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on 17 November 2009
This was bought for ,my husband, an ex classical musician. It gave insight into the brilliance and talent not only of Delius but also of Eric Fenby.
The print was easy to read and the book in excellent condition.
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on 8 May 2013
Much appreciated present for my daughter who is a music teacher and great to watch "Song of Summer" Ken Russel's best film, which was based on this book. See it on YouTube
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