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BAXWORKS : 1920-1924

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


The Truth about the Russian Dancers
220. Commissioned for J M Barrie's stage play in which the principal character is a Russian ballerina (it was written for Tamara Karsavina) who, alone of the cast, dances instead of speaking. See also Tamara.
Ceremonial Dance - Serpent Dance - Water Music
221-223. Piano versions of pieces from The Truth About the Russian Dancers (preceding entry). One of the simplest and pleasantest of Baxian tunes, "Water Music" first appears in the ballet Tamara. (We have fond recollections of Margaret Fingerhut playing this piece on an ancient upright piano at Mary Gleaves's 90th birthday celebration.) GP has since discovered that these pieces were in fact arranged in 1929, not 1920.
Lullaby (Berceuse)
224. Piano solo dedicated to Tamara Karsavina.
Piano Sonata No. 2
225. Definitive revision of GP127 (1919).
Le Chant D'Isabeau (French Canadian Melody)
226. "Freely arranged for voice and piano". Text: French Songs of Old Canada, compiled by W Graham Robertson.
Traditional Songs of France
227. "Freely arranged".
   (1) Sarabande. Amours, amours, tant tu me fais de mal
   (2) Langueo d'amours, ma doulce fillette
   (3) Me soui meso en danso
   (4) Femmes, battez vos Marys
   (5) La Targo
The cycle originally included also GP226 and GP228.
A Rabelaisian Catechism
228. Text: Traditional French.
229. Piano solo dedicated, when republished in 1940, to Iso Elinson.
230. Piano solo that could hardly be called anything else, except possibly "Country Tune" without a hyphen.
The Devil that Tempted St. Anthony
231. Untraced (but performed in 1922) solo precursor of the later piece for two pianos (GP293, 1928).
A Hill Tune
232. Piano solo based on a tune from the first movement of the String Quintet in G of 1908 (GP107). One of my favourite piano pieces, it puts me in mind of Mörike's haunting poem Frühlingshügel.
233. A light and uncharacteristic piano solo, thematically reminiscent of Ravel, commemorating a Mediterranean holiday shared with Clifford Bax, Balfour Gardiner, and dedicatee Gustav Holst. "In 3-4 time rubato, which at one moment may suggest Barcelona to you or at another Naples, its atmosphere is so generous" (Daily Telegraph). Later orchestrated (GP257, 1921).
Of A Rose I sing a Song
234. Short carol for harp, cello, double bass, small choir (SATB). Text: Anonymous 15th Century.
Phantasy, for Viola and Orchestra
235. In three connected movements, originally designated Concerto in D minor and dedicated to Lionel Tertis. The only Baxwork containing a genuine Irish folk-tune, namely A chailín donn deas na gcíocha bána ("The pretty brown-haired girl with the white breasts"), though incorrectly spelt in the printed score. The finale incorporates a brief reference to the Sinn Féin marching song later adopted as the national anthem of the Irish Free State.
Violin Sonata No. 1
236. Third version: see also 1910 (GP124), 1915 (GP166), 1945 (GP361). "After performing this work with a 'worthy' lady violinist in the 1920s, Bax wrote to a friend: "I am not sure that middle-aged and unquestionably virtuous virgins ought to play my music.'"
My Eyes for Beauty Pine
237. Voice and piano; text: Robert Bridges. See also GP250.


Five Irish Songs
   (1) The Pigeons (Padraic Colum)
   (2) As I came over the grey, grey hills (Joseph Campbell)
   (3) I heard a piper piping (Campbell)
   (4) Across the Door (Colum)
   (5) Beg-Innish (J M Synge).
239. Text: "Dermot O'Byrne" (= A.B.) (The true meaning of glamour, as used here, is a spell or enchantment.)
Piano Sonata No. 1 in F# Minor
240. Second revision of GP127 (1910).
Ballade in Ab
241. Orchestration of a Chopin piano piece.
Piano Sonata in Eb
242. Bax's third piano sonata is not so numbered, being better known in its orchestrated version as his first symphony. As GP explains: "After completing this sonata, Bax played it through to his friends Harriet Cohen and Arthur Alexander, who suggested to him that it was really a symphony and should be orchestrated. Before doing this, Bax wrote an entirely new slow movement to replace the original." See also, therefore, Symphony No 1.
Summer Music
243. Short orchestral tone poem originally entitled "Idyll". Revised 1932.
A Hosting at Dawn
244. Fanfare for woodwind, brass and percussion. One of many commissioned from several composers to celebrate the publication of the periodical Fanfare.
In the Faery Hills
245. Orchestral tone poem, revised from 1909.
Mater, Ora Filium
246. Carol for unaccompanied double choir (SSAATTBB). Text: 16th century, macaronic (Latin and English). One of Bax's most uncharacteristic but striking works, inspired by hearing, for the first time, a performance of Byrd's Mass for five voices. "The result on paper looks an almost unsingable jumble. In performance it was admirably calculated, full of the most adorable surprises" (Edward Dent, 1922).
Now is the Time of Christymas
247. Carol for men's voices (TTBB), flute, piano. Text: Anonymous 15th Century. Voice and piano are signatured G major, flute C major, creating a Mixolydian/Ionian bimodal effect. (Compare GP308.)
Violin Sonata No. 2 in D
248. Revision of GP171 (1915).
Christmas Eve
249. Revision of Christmas Eve on the Mountains (1912); see also comment on the First String Quartet.
Two Songs
250. Arrangements for tenor and string quartet of GP184 and GP237.


Sonata for Viola and Piano
251. One of the composer's best-loved chamber works, dedicated to Lionel Tertis. An old recording of a performance by the dedicatee with Bax at the piano has been reissued on CD.
Three Irish Songs
252. (1) Cradle Song, (2) Rann of Exile, (3) Rann of Wandering. Text: Padraic Colum. (Rann is Gaelic for verse or stanza.)
Dermot Donn McMorna
253. For voice and piano. Text by Padraic Colum.
This Worldes Joie
254. Motet for unaccompanied chorus (SATB). Text: Anonymous c.1300.
Quartet in One Movement
255. For piano, violin, viola and cello, rearranged for orchestra as Saga Fragment in 1932.
Symphony No. 1 in Eb
256. This remarkably accomplished first symphony Poster
Concert handbill
is in Bax's characteristic three-movement structure, of which the second is slow, while the third starts with a scherzo, undergoes development, and concludes with a finale - the equivalent of what would be designated "Epilogue" in future symphonies. The First Symphony originated as a third Piano Sonata composed earlier in the year.
257. Orchestration of the piano solo, commissioned by Eugène Goossens specifically for a "Concert of the Recent Works of Arnold Bax" at the Queen's Hall, London, 13.11.1922 [Handbill, right].
Oboe Quintet
258. For oboe, 2 violins, viola and cello. Later arranged for oboe and string orchestra by John Barbirolli and designated Concerto for Oboe. A light and tuneful piece in the usual three movements.
A Celtic Song Cycle
259. Revision of GP63 (1904).
The Happy Forest
260. Short orchestral tone poem inspired by Herbert Farjeon's "fantastic prose-poem" of the same name.
Lyrical Interlude
261. Revision of the slow movement of the 1908 Quintet in G.


The Market Girl
262. For voice and piano; text: Thomas Hardy.
The Boar's Head
263. Men's voices (TTBB). Text: Anonymous, 15th or 16th century. "The carol has verses partly in Latin, partly in English, and is associated with the feast held in The Queen's College, Oxford, at which a boar's head is brought in on a silver salver. This commemorates the occasion when a student is said to have been confronted by a wild boar, which he asphyxiated by shoving his volume of Aristotle down its throat" (G.P.)
To the Name above every Name
264. Soprano, chorus (SATB) and orchestra. Text: Richard Crashaw.
Sonata for Cello and Piano
265. First performed by dedicatee Beatrice Harrison accompanied by Harriet Cohen. "It gave me so much trouble that I could not tell, when it was finished, what kind of impression it would make" (A.B.)


St. Patrick's Breastplate
267. Chorus (SATB) and orchestra. Text: Irish Gaelic, 8th century, probably translated by the composer.
I Heard a Soldier
268. Baritone or mezzo-soprano and piano. Text: Herbert Trench.
Wild Almond
269. For voice and piano, text: Herbert Trench. Re-done as one of Three Songs (GP325, 1933).