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BAXWORKS : 1940-1953

The music of Sir Arnold Bax (1883-1953)
Edited by David Parlett from the catalogue by Graham Parlett

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1940
1941
1942
Malta, G. C.
347. Music for a flag-waving documentary by the Crown Film Unit. "I do not feel that air-raids have much to do with my own particular style" (A.B.). He subsequently recycled part of it for the Victory March of 1945 and the Coronation March of 1952.

Five Greek Folksongs
348. Unaccompanied chorus (SATB).
   (1) Miracle of St Basil
   (2) The Bridesmaid's Song
   (3) In Far-off Malta
   (4) The Happy Tramp
   (5) A Pilgrim's Chant
Commissioned by their translator, Michel-Dmitri Calvocoressi. "They are very quaint and rather barbaric tunes but I think I made something interesting of them"(A.B.)

Five Fantasies on Polish Christmas Carols
Image: Carols sheet music
349. Unison trebles and string orchestra.
   (1) God is born
   (2) In Nightly Stillness
   (3) In the Manger he is lying
   (4) Lullay, dear Jesus
   (5) Merrily to Bethlehem
Commissioned by the translator, Jan Sliwinski, for the benefit of the Polish Children and the Polish Red Cross.

Two Fanfares
351. For brass, organ and percussion, commissioned (by HM Government?) to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Red Army.
 
 
1943
Legend-Sonata
352. Suddenly, in the middle of the Second World War, Bax's muse wakes up again. Of this three-movement sonata for cello and piano, dedicated to Florence Hooton, Bax wrote "I enjoyed writing it and perhaps because of my long rest from responsible composition it all came very easily" (A.B.) It is indeed one of the best of his post-symphonic works.

Salute to Sydney
353. Fanfare for brass and percussion, commissioned by Arthur Bliss for a BBC Overseas broadcast celebrating Australia's contribution to the defence of the Commonwealth.

Work in Progress
354. Orchestral overture, strangely titled (perhaps reflecting the then popular BBC radio programme Music while you work?) for a short piece commissioned by ENSA (National Services Entertainment Association). The composer described it as a jeu d'esprit, and it includes a brief reference to Deutschland über Alles. But if you can put this out of your mind, the central section sounds more like a reversion to Irish legendary tone-poem-land. "For reasons of national security during wartime, the precise location of the première was not mentioned in the press" (G.P.)

Dream Child
355. For voice and piano; text: Val Newton.
 
 
1944
To Russia
356. Baritone solo, chorus (SATB) and orchestra. Text: John Masefield, Ode to the Red Army. "The Albert Hall Anglo-Russian Jamboree yesterday was incredibly boring and I returned here [to Storrington] dead to the world". (A.B.)

A Legend
357. Bax's last tone poem, and umpteenth piece with "Legend" in its title, was written for a Promenade Concert. Very enjoyable, in a grim (and Grimm) sort of way; but not exactly ground-breaking.
 
 
Te Deum
359. For chorus (SATB) and organ. Text: St Ambrose (attrib.). One of several BBC commissions for new church works by English composers.

Nunc Dimittis
360. For chorus (SATB) and organ. Text: Luke's Gospel. BBC commission (as above).

Violin Sonata No. 1
361. Fourth and final version. "It was one of my earliest tunes to be published, and lordy what a host of errors and ambiguities I let pass" (A.B.) See also 1910 (GP124), 1915 (GP166), 1920 (GP236).

Suite on the Name Gabriel Fauré
362. Piano solo, comprising Prelude, Barcarolle, Polka, Intermezzo (Storm), Finale (Quodlibet). Later rearranged for harp and string orchestra (GP379, 1949).

Gloria
363. Communion service for chorus (SATB) and organ. Text: the Lesser Doxology (Gloria Patri).

Victory March
364. Circumstances of composition unknown, but evidently done to commission (presumably celebrating V.E. Day), as it is quite short and incorporates a theme already used in the film music for Malta G.C. and to come to his rescue again for a requisite Coronation March in 1952.

O Dame get up and Bake your Pies
365. "Variations on a North Country Christmas Carol", for piano, commissioned by Julian Herbage, dedicated to him and his wife, and played by Harriet Cohen on BBC Radio 23.12.1945. Anna Herbage provided the pies, which were eaten after the performance (presumably off-air).

Golden Eagle
366. Incidental piano-and-orchestra music for Clifford Bax's stage play about Mary, Queen of Scots, which ran for all of three performances before being mercifully beheaded.
 
 
Trio in Bb
367. For piano, violin and cello, written to commission (reluctantly) for a series of concerts at the Wigmore Hall. Bax described its first two movements as "severely classical… as to the last [mostly in 5/8 time] it might have a quotation from Hamlet: 'This is miching mallecho - it means mischief'".

The Bard of the Dimbovitza
368. Revision for mezzo-soprano and orchestra of GP160 (1914).

Morning Song (Maytime in Sussex)
369. A slight but tuneful thing for piano and orchestra dedicated to the (then) Princess Elizabeth on the occasion of her 21st birthday.
 
 
Four Pieces for piano
370. Namely: Fantastic March, Romanza, Idyll, Phantasie.

St. George
371. For baritone solo, chorus (SATB), organ and orchestra. Text: John Masefield, subsequently published as A Play of St George. Commissioned to celebrate the sexcentenary of the Order of the Garter and the College of St George in 1348. Incomplete, and unperformed owing to lack of funds.

Epithalamium
372. For chorus (SATB in unison) and organ. Text: Edmund Spenser, Epithalamion (a nuptial song). Composed in anticipation of the royal wedding (of Elizabeth and Philip), but, in the event, not used.

Royal Wedding Fanfares
373. Three brass and percussion fanfares for the wedding of Elizabeth Windsor and Philip Mountbatten. "Dreadful" (A.B.)
 
  Image: CD slip
Oliver Twist
374. Incidental music for David Lean's film of Dickens's classic, with Alec Guinness as Fagin. This excellent example of the composer's art, best appreciated on screen but equally enjoyable in concert, makes one regret that he wrote nothing else for the filmic medium - despite the fact that "It is the book of Dickens that I most dislike, and there is no music in the subject at all" (A.B.). In 2002 the Bax Trust commissioned Graham Parlett to compile a complete score from a variety of sources (including the film soundtrack, remnants of the original manuscript, concert extracts made by Muir Mathieson and (separately) Stanford Robinson, and some copyist's parts found abandoned in a skip in Brighton); the final result was recorded and issued by Chandos on CD in 2003. "Mr Brownlow's theme" comes from In Memoriam of 1916.

Two Lyrical Pieces for piano
375. Transcriptions from the film music for Oliver Twist, namely "Oliver's Sleepless Night" and "Oliver and Mr Brownlow."

Magnificat
376. For chorus (SATB) and organ. Text: Luke's Gospel. Rearrangement of an earlier Magnificat for voice and piano (1908) made for and dedicated to Harold Darke, organist of St Michael's, Cornhill, who turned out not to like it.
 
 
Concertante for Three Solo Instruments and Orchestra
377. Commissioned by the Henry Wood Concert Society, the concertante for cor anglais, clarinet, horn and orchestra is another of Bax's few late masterpieces. The composer referred to it as a kind of triple concerto in four movements giving prominence to, respectively, cor anglais, clarinet, horn, and finally all three used as soloists together.

Concertante for Orchestra with Piano (Left Hand)
Photo AB and HC 378. "This work was written for Harriet Cohen after she had 'fallen carrying a tray of glass dishes into the kitchen of her London home in 1948 and cut the wrist of her right hand damaging the nerve and causing it to wither'". (Nicolas Slonimsky, Music Since 1900. Inverted commas his. It has been darkly pointed out that the incident followed Bax's declining to wed Harriet after she learned that his wife had died the previous year.) Of the consequent music Bax wrote "I find it terribly difficult to think of anything effective for the one hand. But then I am very much out of practice with writing anything for the piano at all." It is in the usual three movements, with a vigorous first movement and nice tune in the second, but the third falters somewhat and sounds relieved to reach an end.

Variations on the name Gabriel Fauré
379. A reworking for harp and string orchestra of the light-hearted piano piece (GP362, 1945) in five movements: Prelude, Barcarolle, Polka, Intermezzo (Storm), Finale (Quodlibet).
 
 
Two Fanfares for "Show Business 1851-1951"
380. Brass and percussion, for a radio programme associated with the Festival of Britain.

Journey into History
381. Appropriately trivial background music for a drivelling British Transport documentary film about London. "It doesn't much matter what one writes for these entertainments" (A.B.) Someone connected with the making of the film, however, says that Bax showed great interested in the project, despite his later dismissive remarks.
 
 
Coronation March
385. Of what proved to be his last orchestral work, Bax wrote "I am now engaged upon trying to write a Coronation March (funny without being vulgar!) for the Abbey service. I think the result will be that my reputation will be killed for all time. However I am old now and it does not matter". (The "funny without being vulgar" repeats W. S. Gilbert's comment on Irving's Hamlet.) It incorporates yet again a tune originally devised for Malta G.C. in 1942 and recycled as a Victory March in 1945. In the event, the result compares favourably with others of its type.
 
 
What is it like to be Young and Fair?
386. Part-song for unaccompanied chorus (SSAAT). Text: Clifford Bax. One of several contributions by English composers to A Garland for the Queen, commissioned by John Denison, Music Director of the Arts Council. Ironically, in view of its title, and of the title of Bax's autobiographical fragment Farewell my Youth, this was his last completed composition.
 
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