BAXWORKS : 1915-1919
The music of Sir Arnold Bax (1883-1953)
Edited by David Parlett from the catalogue by Graham Parlett
- The Princess's Rose Garden
- 161. Nocturne, for piano.
- In a Vodka Shop
- 162. For piano, dedicated in manuscript "To Tania" (= Harriet Cohen) and
on the printed score "To Myra Hess". (An example of eating your cake and
having it?) Orchestrated 1919 as the third movement of the Russian Suite (GP215).
- The Maiden with the Daffodil
163. "An idyll", for piano.
First performed by Myra Hess, but the maiden
in question was Harriet Cohen. (Pictured right, trying not to look like
the painting of Queen Maev by J C Leyendecker.)
164. Orchestral tone-poem based on piano original of 1912
revised in 1933 (GP333).
"The title of this short tone-poem comes from
Swinburne [his poem A Nympholept], and the quotation [Enter these
enchanted woods / You who dare…] from [George] Meredith's
The Woods of Westermain. Both poems derive from the same central
idea - that of a perilous pagan enchantment haunting the sunlit midsummer
forest." (A.B.) Or, to put it another way, "The tale telleth how one walking
at summer-dawn in haunting woods was beguiled by the nymphs, and, meshed
in their shining and perilous dances, was rapt away for ever into the sunlight
life of the wild-wood" (A.B.). In yet other words, the sylvan equivalent
of the maritime Garden of Fand.
165. One of many, this for violin and piano in one movement.
Violin Sonata No. 1
166. Second version of the
Violin Sonata of 1910
with 2nd and 3rd movements entirely rewritten. Further revised 1920
(GP236) and 1945
Quintet in G minor
167. A substantial and important work for piano and strings.
168. For piano, to S. H. Braithwaite.
169. For piano, "To Elsita" - the only composition Bax ever dedicated to
170. Unfinished opera. Text: "Dermot O'Byrne" (= A.B.). "A folk comedy
rather in the manner of J M Synge, based on the Irish tale The Twisting
of the Rope (A.B.). (Not so much unfinished as barely started: only a few
musical sketches survive, though the libretto was published in 1919.)
Violin Sonata No. 2
171. For violin and piano. Curiously structured in four movements, the second
subtitled "The Grey Dancer in the Twilight". Revised 1921.
A Mountain Mood
172. Melody and Variations, for piano. One of my favourites - I greatly
miss my old 78-rpm disc of Harriet Cohen's rendering, which unfortunately
broke in transit.
173. Subtitled "Tragic Landscape", and definitely on the chilly side.
- The Garden of Fand
- 175. Orchestral tone poem
How not to design an LP sleeve
- Bax's favourite, and the last he heard
performed before he died. Fand is the goddess of the sea in Irish legend,
and her garden lies beneath the waves, to which she lures unwary travellers
with siren-like song, dance and revelry. On a similar theme, see also
Dream in Exile
176. Intermezzo for piano. To Tobias Matthay.
177. Piano solo. "He had vaguely in mind some sort of water nymph of
Greek mythological times", wrote Harriet Cohen. But then, he often did.
178. For flute, viola and harp, a combination probably inspired by
Debussy's trio of 1915.
179. Musically unrelated to the sextet In Memoriam
(1917), this one is specifically in memory of Pádraig Pearse,
who was executed after the Easter Uprising. Colin Scott-Sutherland writes:
"In A Dublin Ballad and other poems, published in a limited edition of 425
copies by the Candle Press, Dublin, in 1918, Bax sang the heroes of the
revolt - and found himself in conflict with the English censor by whom the
book was banned as subversive (a strange position for the future guardian
of English musical respectability to find himself in)". It includes a
theme later associated with Mr Brownlow in the film music for David Lean's
film version of Oliver Twist.
The full score (edited by GP) was published in 2013 by
Richard Frazier Music.
Moy Mell (The Happy Plain)
180. "An Irish Tone-Poem", for two pianos. I cherish a 78 rpm recording of
this delightful and hypnotic piece played by Bartlett and Robertson, despite
their race to get it on to two sides in less than 8 minutes. Bax comments
on it thus: "Moy Mell (properly Magh Mell) means 'The Pleasant Plain', one
of the three ideas connected with the ancient Irish conception of the
'Happy Otherworld' or Pagan paradise. The other two are the enchanted island
in the Atlantic (to which St. Brendan and many others are said to have adventured
in their coracles) and the faery world of the Hollow Hill. I have treated both of
these in two orchestral works,
The Garden of Fand and
In the Faery Hills.
There is no definite story attached to Moy Mell apart from this poetic
Graham Parlett adds: "Just came across this, from the South Coast Times and Wollongong Argus, 19 September 1947:
"Their first item was 'Moy Mell' by the ultra-modernist Arnold Bax..."
181. Short piece for violin and piano. "I believe it is rather good - it's
a wild stormy thing" (A.B.) Revised 1921.
I know Myself no more, my Child
182. For voice and piano, text attributed to "Æ" (George Russell).
183. Baritone and piano. Text: "Æ" (George Russell). Dedication:
"In memory of certain Irish patriots."
O Mistress Mine
184. Text: Shakespeare.
185. Text: "Æ" (George Russell). Colin Scott-Sutherland points out
a melodic connection between this song and the Symphonic Variations of 1918.
- The Splendour falls on Castle-Walls
186. Text: Tennyson. Re-done as one of Three Songs (GP325, 1933).
187. For orchestra; revised 1933.
From Dusk till Dawn
188. Ballet in one act, commissioned by Mrs Christopher Lowther, concerning
the nocturnal activities of Dresden china figures.
Go, Lovely Rose
189. Text: Edmund Waller. (Score untraced.)
In Memoriam (1916) [aka Irish Elegy]
190. Sextet for cor anglais,
favourite portrait photo
harp and string quartet. Distinct from the
orchestral In Memoriam of 1916, and in
fact first performed under the title Irish Elegy.
191. Orchestral tone-poem. "The whole piece and its origins are connected
with certain rather troublous experiences I was going through myself at
the time... The middle part may be taken as a dream of happier days, such
as sometimes come in the intervals of stress either physical or mental"
(A.B.). This masterpiece was in fact conceived when Bax was caught in a
storm in beech woods near Amersham station after a tryst with pianist
Harriet Cohen [pictured, right], for whom he was
contemplating leaving his wife and children. The principal theme was also
used in his Second Violin Sonata.
- I have House and Land in Kent - Jack and Jone - The Maid and the Miller -
O Dear! What can the Matter be? - Trois Enfantines
192 - 196. Folk-song arrangements for soprano (Raymonde Collignon) and
piano, from the Répertoire Collignon.
Variations sur "Cadet-Rousselle"
197. Arrangement of French folk-song with Frank Bridge, Eugene Goossens
and John Ireland, "To our good friend Edwin Evans, who suggested this
198. Short piece for cello and piano, subtitled (but not in Bax's
handwriting) Conte Populaire.
String Quartet No. 1 in G major
199. An unusually light and jolly first movement precedes a deep and pensive
slow movement, followed by a jig-like rondo incorporating a beautiful
quasi-Irish folk tune reminiscent of Ban Cnuic Éirann Óg
(which also appears in
Christmas Eve on the Mountains).
Dance Prelude and Lament of the Swan-Princess
200. Orchestration of piano pieces by Anatol Liadov.
Far in a Western Brookland
201. For medium voice and piano. Text: A E Housman, A Shropshire Lad.
202. Ballet. Lost, possibly never completed.
Green Grow the Rashes O!
203. "A Character Sketch". Text: Robert Burns.
204. Text attributed to Clifford Bax, though he published no poem of this
title. Score untraced.
On a May Evening
205. Piano solo. (Quite nice, but goes on a bit.)
206. Piano solo based on the theme Bax always associated with
Harriet Cohen, which first appeared in
November Woods and
occurs again the slow movement of the
When I was One-and-Twenty
207. Text: A E Housman, A Shropshire Lad.
208. Text: Clifford Bax.
209. Revision of GP134 (1911).
210. A powerful work for piano and orchestra written for Harriet Cohen
(whose hands were really too small for Bax's gigantic requirements - she
was unable to strike a ninth in either). Lasting nearly 50 minutes, it is
in two briefly separated halves, each consisting of connected movements
whose titles suggest the exploits of some unnamed legendary hero. It
consists of an Introduction, which actually introduces two themes that
seem to play equally prominent parts throughout - followed by sections
labelled: Youth - Nocturne - Strife - The Temple - Scherzo (Play) -
Intermezzo (Enchantment) - Triumph. There is an excellent analysis of this work in
Colin Scott-Sutherland's book.
212. "In the years 1917-1918 Edwin Evans, on behalf of the Aeolian Company,
approached well-known composers of the day, including Stravinsky, Bax,
Goossens, Grainger and Bowen, for a series of pianola rolls" (Monica Watson,
in York Bowen: A Centenary Tribute, London 1984).) This truncated
arrangement of the Scherzo of 1913 was issued on pianola by the Aeolian Co.
213. Orchestral tone poem
Tintagel (unsourced Victorian painting)
with Arthurian legendary references, including a
quotation from Wagner's Tristan and Isolde. Bax's best-known work
was conceived on a six-week holiday in Cornwall ostensibly with his family
but in fact with Harriet Cohen installed nearby.
214. For harp and strings, in one movement.
215. (1) Gopak (National Dance), (2) Nocturne (May Night in the Ukraine),
(3) In a Vodka Shop. Commissioned to serve as "symphonic interludes" between
Diaghilev ballets at the Alhambra Theatre. Only two were used. The Nocturne,
left in piano score, has been orchestrated by Graham Parlett.
216. Piano solo dedicated to Irene Scharrer.
Piano Sonata No. 2
217. In one movement, largely dark and brooding, but with a contrasting
heroic section marked "brazen and glittering", a mysterious middle section
marked "slow and concentrated", and a calm, semplice ending.
Harriet Cohen described it (for the article on Bax by Julian Herbage in
British Music of Our Time, 1946) as "again an epic conception,
this time taking the form of a contest between a legendary hero and the
powers of darkness. It has been described as The Battle with the Loathly
Worm". Given Bax's complex personality, however, one might feel the warring
elements sound less like George and the Dragon than Jekyll and Hyde. The
sonata was revised between its first and second performances (Nov 1919 -
The Slave Girl
218. Piano solo, dedicated to "Madame Tamara Karsavina".
What the Minstrel told Us
219. Piano solo, subtitled "A ballad" (in case anyone thought they were in
for a dirty joke).