BAXWORKS : 1925-1929
The music of Sir Arnold Bax (1883-1953)
Edited by David Parlett from the catalogue by Graham Parlett
- String Quartet No. 2
271. A more sombre work than No 1. On hearing it performed some 25 years
later, Bax wrote "I must say I enjoyed it".
272. For voice and piano; text: Thomas Hardy.
273. For voice and piano; text: Robert Herrick. Later orchestrated (GP330,
274. Short, occasional piece for orchestra, with no known link to any
Blow Northern Wind
275. For voice and piano; text: Old English poem, possibly translated by
Clifford Bax. (Score untraced.)
- Symphony No. 2
276. Said to be in E minor and C, though Bax's tonal base was always
somewhat fluid. This one is richly thematic and typical of the "brazen
romantic" that Bax declared himself to be, though he also says that its
conception was associated with "much trouble and unhappiness". In some
respects the mood recalls November Woods (1917).
277. For chamber orchestra and piano, written at the home of "Peter Warlock"
(Philip Heseltine) at Eynsford, Kent.
278. Tenor, soprano obbligato, chorus (SATB) and orchestra. Text: 16th
century, attributed (questionably) to Walter Raleigh. The poem was introduced
to Bax by Philip Heseltine.
Piano Sonata No. 3
279. In three movements, unlike its predecessors (in one), but like the
unnumbered third that was subsequently converted into a symphony (No 1).
Bax said its composition gave him a lot of trouble, which is surprising for
something that turned out so well. According to Harriet Cohen "The first
[movement] was once strangely used by Marie Rambert as the basis of a ballet
on the death of Cuchullain. Bax did not think this experiment a success".
280. Arrangements for voice and piano of
(1) Haut, haut, Peyrot (baritone)
(2) Laisse-quy tas affaires (contralto)
(3) Guillô, pran ton tamborin (voice, piano,
Texts: Presumably A Book of Old Carols (London 1907), ed. Massé
and Scott. Arrangements known only from newspaper reports of their
premiere and of another performance at the Wigmore Hall on 16 December
1930. The flute and piano scoring was no doubt influenced by the inclusion
in the programme of Now is the Time of Christymas (247), written for men's
chorus, flute and piano. (Although Bax writes a part for tambourine, the
'tamborin' of the title is in fact a narrow Provençal drum.)
In the Morning - On the Bridge - Out and Away
281 - 283. For voice and piano; texts respectively A E Housman, Thomas
Hardy, James Stephens.
- I sing of a Maiden
266. For five unaccompanied voices (SAATB). Text: Anonymous, 15th century.
The referend is Mary the mother of Jesus. Philip Heseltine ("Peter Warlock")
wrote to Bax: "I am delighted with 'I sing of a maiden'. It is by a very long
way the best setting of the poem that has been made, and it should be
quite thrilling in performance". (Entry previously misdated 1923.)
- Ballad (for violin and piano)
300. Revision of the 1916 original (GP181), of which Bax wrote (to its
dedicatee Winifred Small) "It turned up two years ago and I revised it
heavily and put it in a drawer and never thought of it again. Today I
believe it is rather good - it's a wild stormy thing". (Previously
- Fantasy Sonata
284. A beautiful piece in a surprising number of movements (four) for the
unusual combination of viola and harp. It was first performed and recorded
by Raymond Jeremy (viola) and harpist Maria Korchinska, its dedicatee.
Three Songs from the Norse
285. (1) Irmelin Rose, (2) Lad Vaaren Komme, (3) Venevil.
Text: J P Jacobsen (1-2), Bjørnstjerne Bjørnsen (3).
Concerto in D Minor by Antonio Vivaldi (RV 540) (arr)
286. A "rather free arrangement" (G.P.) for harp and string quartet.
287. Short piece or two pianos, dedicated to Ethel Bartlett and Rae Robertson.
"Hardanger is a district on the west coast of Norway, and Bax's piece is
in the style of a Norwegian 'halling', a reel-like dance adopted by Grieg
in several of his works. The legend 'With acknowledgments to Grieg' appears
at the head of the score" (G.P.)
Overture, Elegy and Rondo
288. A quasi-sinfonietta, very representative of the composer's thematic
and orchestral style, and justifiably described by him as "Amongst my
brightest and most optimistic compositions". It makes a good companion piece
to the structurally similar
Sinfonietta of 1933.
Violin Sonata No. 3
289. Violin and piano. In two movements, the second containing a section
designated "planxty". For its definition, the Oxford English Dictionary
quotes a 19th-century musical dictionary thus: "A harp tune of a sportive
and animated character, moving in triplets... slower than a jig". According
to the Wikipedia entry, however, "[It] is believed to be a corruption of the
Irish word and popular toast "sláinte", meaning "good health".
Others claim that the word is not Irish in origin but comes from the Latin
"plangere," meaning to strike or beat...)
Fantasia by J. S. Bach (BWV 572) (arr)
290. No 2 in A Bach Book for Harriet Cohen, with arrangements by
11 other British composers.
- Sonata for Flute and Harp
291. Dedicated to Count Benckendorff, husband of harpist Maria Korchinska.
Rearranged in 1936 as a Concerto
(for seven instruments, so better regarded as a Septet).
Violin Sonata in F
292. Bax's 4th violin sonata is better known in its more engaging rearrangement
as a Nonet (1930).
The Devil that Tempted St. Anthony
293. Piece for two pianos dedicated to Bartlett and Robertson, possibly
revised from the now lost piano solo of the same title dated 1920. "The
title refers to St Antony the Abbot, whom the Devil's temptations failed
to deflect from the path of righteousness. He [later became] the patron
saint of basket-makers, butchers, domestic animals, and grave-diggers" (G.P.)
294. A noisy little piano piece. Orchestrated, even more noisily, in 1938
295. For small orchestra, revised from
Four Orchestral Pieces (1912)
(a) Evening Piece
(b) Irish Landscape
(c) Dance in the Sunlight
"I think they have a certain freshness which might please, although of
course they are unfashionably romantic" (A.B.)
The Poisoned Fountain
296. Piece for two pianos dedicated to Bartlett and Robertson. "The programme
behind this work comes from Irish mythology. The fountain of the title was
the Secret Well of Segais, the source of knowledge, which stood on Sídhe
Nectain, the hill of the water-god Nectan. Only the god and his three
cupbearers could approach the fountain without burning their eyes. According
to one version of the story, Nectan's wife, Boann, scorned the danger and
walked round the fountain three times anticlockwise. The waters rose up in
pursuit, drowning her and forming the river Boyne" (G.P.).
Symphony No. 3
297. Nominally in C, the Third combines the emotional depth of the Second
with the tightly controlled structure of the First. An anvil-blow at the
feroce climax of the first movement is particularly striking.
(Or should be - in some performances it sounds more like a tin can.) The
final section of the third movement, marked "Epilogue" for the first time
in the cycle, is particularly satisfying. (Vaughan Williams quoted its theme
in the finale of his Piano Concerto, written for Harriet Cohen, but later
deleted it from the score.)
Sonata for two Pianos
298. Yet another dedication to Ethel Bartlett and Rae Robertson, it is
cast in the usual three movements, the third based on Hebridean dance rhythms.
Legend (for viola and piano)
299. A rather grim 10-minute piece.