BAXWORKS : 1940-1953
The music of Sir Arnold Bax (1883-1953)
Edited by David Parlett from the catalogue by Graham Parlett
- 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
Polish carols:sheet music
I think I made something
interesting of them"(A.B.)
Five Fantasies on Polish Christmas Carols
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.
351. For brass, organ and percussion, commissioned (by the Ministry of Information) to
commemorate the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Red Army.
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.)
355. (c.1943) For voice and piano; text: Val Newton.
- 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.)
357. Bax's last tone poem, one of many of his "Legends",
was written for a Promenade Concert. Very enjoyable, in a grim/Grimm
sort of way, albeit hardly 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
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.)
Suite on the Name Gabriel Fauré
362. Piano solo, comprising Prelude, Barcarolle, Polka, Intermezzo (Storm),
Finale (Quodlibet). Later rearranged for harp and string orchestra
363. Communion service for chorus (SATB) and organ. Text: the Lesser Doxology
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).
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 B♭
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
The Bard of the Dimbovitza
368. Revision for mezzo-soprano and orchestra of
Morning Song (Maytime in Sussex)
369. A slight but tuneful trinket 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.
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
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.)
- Oliver Twist
374. Incidental music for
Bax film music on CD
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."
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
- 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)
378. "This work was written for Harriet Cohen
Arnold and Harriet at
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 10½-minute British
Transport documentary film about London.
"It doesn't much matter what one writes for these entertainments", wrote Bax, but
someone connected with the making of the film says that the composer showed great interest
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".
("Funny without being vulgar" is the title of a music-hall song with words
by Harry Brett and music by Charles Ingle (1891). It is also a comment
(possibly apocryphal) attributed to W. S. Gilbert about a performance of
Hamlet by Herbert Beerbohm Tree (1892).) 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.