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BAXWORKS : 1910-1915

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


Violin Sonata No. 1
124. Violin and piano, first of four versions (revised 1915 (GP166), 1920 (GP236), 1945 (GP361)). "I was very pleased with my sonata. It did not sound at all like anything else, and I realised for the first time that my harmonic scheme is unlike that of other modern composers" (A.B.)
Concert Valse in Eb
125. Dedicated to Myra Hess, who played it at a Society of British Composers Concert in March 1910.
A Lullaby
126. "Sheila MacCarthy" (= A.B.)
Piano Sonata No. 1 in F# minor
127. A glittering one-movement work, first drafted in Ukraine "[i]n a mood that alternated between adolescent despair from the disillusions of unrequited love, and exultation in the sensuous beauty of the landscape" (Colin Scott-Sutherland). It apparently underwent several transformations of form and title before the definitive revision of 1917-1921, namely as:
   (1) Romantic Tone-Poem, performed April 1911; possibly also
   (2) Sonata in D Minor, first movement, June 1911;
   (3) Symphonic Fantasy, October 1919;
   (4) Sonata, June 1920; and
   (5) Sonata No. 1 in F# minor, April 1921.
At some point it acquired a bravura finale suggesting "the multi-rhythmed jangles of Slavonic church bells during the Easter festival" (Harriet Cohen). See also Piano Sonata in D minor.
128. Also spelt "Roscatha". Third of "Éire" trilogy (with Into the Twilight and In the Faery Hills), dedicated "To the 'mountainy men' of Glencolumcille". It means "Battle-hymn" and is pronounced approximately "roosk-ka-ha''.
Enchanted Summer
129. For two sopranos, chorus and orchestra. Text: Shelley, Prometheus Unbound (Act II Scene II). A major work in three sections, comparable in theme and mood to Spring Fire.
Frühlingsregen (Spring Rain)
130. Text: Friedrich Rückert.
Treue Liebe
131. Volkslied from the Thuringerwald, for voice and piano.
To Éire
132. Text: James H Cousins.


Das Tote Kind
133. Somebody always has to write one of these. Text: Conrad Meyer. "This song is actually quite jaunty, though not as jaunty as Lord Berners' Marche funèbre pour une tante à héritage ('Funeral March for a Rich Aunt')" [GP].
Festival Overture
134. "May be said to present the festal spirit in somewhat riotous mood" (A.B.). (Revised 1918)
Three Nocturnes
136. For soprano and orchestra (unfinished).
Piano Sonata in D Minor
137. Performed 1911, but otherwise unknown, unless it be a transposed version of the Sonata in F# minor.
138. Ballet, "A Little-Russian [= Ukrainian] fairy tale in action and dance", dedicated to Tamara Karsavina. Unfortunately, by the time he had finished the short score Karsavina was appearing in the ballet Thamar, and, to avoid confusion, Bax changed the title to King Kojata (after a relatively minor character) before abandoning it altogether. Karsavina knew nothing about it until after his death, despite her friendship with the composer in connection with Barrie's play The Truth about the Russian Dancers. It is in two acts with a prologue and contains 30 numbers. Bax adapted some pieces from it for flute and piano (GP149). Graham Parlett's selection and orchestration of a suite from the short score, commissioned by the Sir Arnold Bax Trust, was completed and recorded in 2000. The concert suite comprises: (1) Prelude, (2) Dance of the Water-Spirits, (3) The Enchanter's Palace and Dance of the Slaves, (4) Naiads, (5) The Hunt and Apotheosis. GP is currently working on a second concert suite from this ballet.
The Bridal Prayer - Faith - Flight - Freimund - The Journey
139 - 143. Scores untraced. Texts attributed to Richard Dehmel except GP140, to Friedrich Rückert.


Christmas Eve on the Mountains
145. For orchestra, revised 1921. "The motif of this tone-poem occurred to me whilst wandering one frosty evening last winter [1911-12] in the beautiful and legended Gleann na Smól, in county Dublin. I hope that the rather mystical mood of which this piece is the outcome may be sufficiently evident in the music to carry its own explanation." (A.B.) It contains a quasi-Irish folk tune related to that of the First String Quartet. Revised 1921 and retitled just Christmas Eve
Two Russian Tone-Pictures
146.(1) Nocturne (May Night in the Ukraine), Image: Gopak score
Sheet music  
(2) Gopak. The former relates to Gogol's Evening on a Farm near Dikanka, the latter is the Russian national dance. See also Russian Suite (GP215, 1919).
148. Piano original of a tone-poem orchestrated in 1915 (GP164).
Four Pieces for Flute and Piano
149. Arrangements of four numbers from Tamara, namely: Shadow Dance, The Princess Dances, Naiad, Grotesque.
Four Orchestral Pieces
   (a) Pensive Twilight
   (b) Dance in the Sun
   (c) In the Hills of Home [From the Mountains of Home]
   (d) Dance of Wild Irravel
Of the last, Bax is quoted as explaining "Wild Irravel is merely the personification of a gipsy mood. I was trying to get some name which suggested no nationality". Pieces (a) to (c) were later revised as Three Pieces for Small Orchestra.
Spring Fire
   Come with bows bent and emptying of quivers
   Maiden most perfect, lady of light,
   With a noise of wind and May rivers
   With a clamour of waters, and with might.

(Swinburne, Atalanta in Calydon)
Described by the composer as "An attempt to depict the first uprush and impulse of Spring in the woods", Spring Fire amounts to a symphony in five connected movements, headed respectively: In the Forest before Day - Daybreak and Sunrise - Full Day - Woodland Love - Maenads. An enchanting work, over all too soon, it was written for performance at the 1914 Norwich Festival but withdrawn as being too difficult. Graham and I attended its eventual premiere in 1970, given by the Kensington Symphony Orchestra under Leslie Head. It has since become a firm favourite with Bax enthusiasts and is now one of his most frequently performed works. (See also Enchanted Summer.)


154. The only extant movement of an otherwise unknown piano sonata, orchestrated 1917, arranged for pianola in 1920.
155. For piano, dedicated to Hamilton Harty. Also listed as Capriccio.


Three Songs with Orchestra
156. For high voice and orchestra
   (1) A Celtic Carol ("Fiona MacLeod")
   (2) A Christmas Carol (see GP116)
   (3) Slumber-Song (same as GP126, except that the title is different and the surname is here spelt McCarthy.)
The Happy Forest
157. Tone-poem for piano, orchestrated 1922.
Three Rondels by Chaucer
158. (1) Captivity, (2) Welcome, Somer, (3) Rejection. Text: attributed to Geoffrey Chaucer (1 and 3 from Merciles Beautè), 2 from The Parliament of Foules.) GP has orchestrated (2).
In the Night
159. A passacaglia for piano.
The Bard of the Dimbovitza
160. For mezzo-soprano (except #6) and orchestra, revised 1946 (GP368).
   (1) The Well of Tears
   (2) Gypsy Song
   (3) My girdle I hung on a tree-top tall
   (4) Spinning Song
   (5) Misconception
   (6) The Song of the Dagger (bass voice)
Text: Hélène Vacaresco, subtitled "Roumanian [sic] Folk-songs collected from the Peasants", trans. by Carmen Sylva [= Queen Elizabeth of Romania] and Alma Strettel. Revised 1946.