Andrew Clements in last Saturday’s Guardian, (unsympathetically) reviewing a performance of Delius’s A Mass of Life, wrote:
Hardcore English-music enthusiasts were out in force at the Festival Hall for this concert. They are easy enough to spot. Male, conservatively dressed and middle-aged (you suspect most of them looked middle-aged when they were in their 20s), they invariably have an air of disappointment, as if the music they support so enthusiastically has never quite lived up to the expectations they load upon it.
I find a little Delius goes quite a long way; it quickly palls, and A Mass of Life more quickly than most. I find myself largely in agreement with Andrew Clements’s assessment of it.
Mind you, Delius was 100% German by blood, set A Mass of Life in German, lived outside England whenever he had the choice, and once famously said “English music? What’s that? I never heard any.”
So I wonder what “English music enthusiasts” were doing there, and how Andrew Clements knew that they were such.
I wonder also if he would get away with caricaturing black or Muslim music enthusiasts in a corresponding way. I suspect not.
Apart from the subtitle of Brigg Fair (“an English rhapsody”) the English connection dates back to the re-interment at Limpsfield in 1934 when Sir Thomas Beecham made a speech arguing for Delius’s re-burial in England (no doubt some had thought it inappropriate, not least because Delius was a strident and unrepentant atheist).
Earlier, in 1908, Havergal Brian witnessed a scene between Delius and the Hallé secretary, when the Hallé were performing Appalachia but had omitted some of the instruments in the score. Delius said, “Such blundering would be unthinkable in Germany. By God, if you English ever go to war with Germany she will smash you up!”