Arnold Bax


Born: November 8, 1883; England   Died: October 3, 1953; Ireland  
Born of cultured and wealthy parents, Bax was insulated from the loss of direction that many composers felt during, and immediately after, the First World War. For him the prewar world of Debussy, Ravel, and Stravinsky was still alive in all its myth and mystery. He described himself as "a brazen romantic," and in many respects could be considered the last of the European post-Romantic school of composers.
During his five years
Read more at the Royal Academy of Music, Bax was deeply impressed by the poetry of W.B. Yeats, founder of the Irish National Theater, an influence that led to a close association with Celtic culture and legend for the rest of his life. He wrote poetry under the pseudonym Dermot O'Byrne, and assisted his brother, the playwright and critic Clifford Bax, in editing a magazine called Orpheus, dedicated to the mystical arts.
His first mature work, In the Fairy Hills, is typical of the fantastic and exotic nature of his orchestral writing, chromatic and opulent, with a broad melodic sweep and luminous harmonies. The Garden of Fand (1916), an imaginative evocation of an ancient legend of sea gods and goddesses, is similarly impressionistic, though less naturalistic, than Debussy's La Mer. Tintagel, a tone poem inspired by traditional English stories of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table was composed in 1919 after a holiday in Cornwall and quickly became Bax's most frequently performed work.
Living in the shadow of composers of the stature of Elgar and Vaughan Williams, Bax received little public recognition until late in life. Up to the late 1930s, his songs, choral works, and chamber music were rarely heard, and, had it not been for a broadening of his style and the championship of Sir Adrian Boult, conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Bax would probably be remembered, if at all, for his comparatively youthful works. Even in the 1960s the English music critic Burnett James was moved to call this neglect "myopic and moronic."
On a visit to Scandinavia in 1932, Bax met Sibelius and the two composers became friends; while Sibelius' influence is not obvious in Bax's symphonic style, he is clearly indebted to the Finnish master in his tone poems "Winter Legends" and "The tale the pine trees knew."
The symphony, a form to which he turned again and again between 1922 and 1939, provided an outlet for a more taut, structured and contrapuntal approach that nevertheless retains elements of fantasy and mysticism. Symphonies 1 and 3 were recorded in his lifetime, and for many years, the Symphony No. 3, with its exotic, colourful melodic lines and rich orchestration, remained popular with British orchestras as well as an occasional international performance. Symphony No. 5 is dedicated to Sibelius and No. 6 contains a brief quote from Sibelius' tone poem Tapiola.
Bax did not take well to approaching old age. He became withdrawn and dependent on alcohol. In 1943, he wrote a bitterly nostalgic memoir of his earlier years titled "Farewell, My Youth" (edited by Lewis Foreman; Scolar [sic] Press (Now Ashgate); 1992). In 1942, he was appointed Master of the Kings' Music and received a knighthood. His last work, written to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II's coronation in 1953, is a set of madrigals called "What is it like to be young and fair?" He died while on holiday in Cork, Ireland. Read less

Work: Tintagel

About This Work
Tintagel is an ancient ruined castle on the North Cornish coast, the sort of wild meeting place between the land and the Atlantic that often inspired Bax. He wrote the work in piano score in October 1917, ostensibly creating pictorial music about the Read more castle and its historical, artistic, and musical associations. He wrote that "[I]t is intended to evoke...the castle-crowned cliff of Tintagel, and more particularly the wide distances of the Atlantic as seen from the cliffs of Cornwall on a sunny but not windless summer day." Among the castle's historical distinctions is its legendary connection with King Arthur and with the cast of one of the greatest of medieval love legends, that of King Mark and Tristam and Iseult. Hence, Bax makes effective use of an important motive from Wagner's opera on the latter subject. This tale of a pair made helpless by love to resist infidelity and betrayal points to the underlying emotion of the piece: in 1912 Bax had met pianist Harriet Cohen and over the next five years was inexorably drawn to her. While wrestling with the decision whether to leave his wife and children to live with her, he vacationed with her at Tintagel for six weeks in August and September of 1917. (He did leave his family the following March.) The music is marked by this agony and passion. When he finally orchestrated the work in 1919, he dedicated it to Harriet under her nickname, Tania. It is exceptional music, requiring a conductor capable of great subtlety in orchestral balances.

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Arnold Bax

I. Lento moderato - Allegro moderato - Allegro feroce - Lento moderato - Allegro moderato - Piu lento - Allegro
II. Lento
II. Moderato - Epilogue: Poco lento
I. Elegy: Lento poco ad libitum
II. Scherzo: Allegro - Allegretto semplice
III. Lento
IV. Allegro ma non troppo, brillante
I. Allegro moderato
II. Moderato tranquillo
III. Rondo: Allegro moderato
I. Allegro moderato
II. Nocturne: Lento - Andante con moto
III. Molto vivace
I. Overture, Ballad and Scherzo: Allegro risoluto - Allegro moderato - Poco largamente
II. Adagio
III. Allegro - Slow valse tempo - Andante con moto
I. Prelude, Act I
IV. Prelude, Act II: Scene 1: Pavane
VII. Prelude: Act II: Scene 2
VIII. Prelude, Act III: Scene 1
IX. Prelude, Act III: Scene 2
X. Mary Stuart's Prayer
Allegro risoluto
Lento espressivo
No. 1 Aufblick
No. 2. Liebesode
I. Meditation: Molto moderato
II. Scherzo: Allegro
Prelude: Lento moderato
The Storm: Con vivo
Oliver's birth: Molto moderato
Picking oakum: Poco lento
Oliver asks for more: Allegro moderato e feroce -
Mr. Bumble's March: Pomposo - Vivace
Oliver sent to bed among the coffins: Moderato
Oliver as funeral mute: Molto energico -
Death of Mrs. Thingummy: Lento
The Fight: Allegro
Oliver's sleepless night: Andante -
Oliver's flight to London: Poco allegretto
Oliver meets the Artful Dodger: Allegro moderato
Fagin's romp: Allegro con vivacita
Oliver's pickpocketing lesson -
Pickpocketing: Allegretto semplice -
The Chase: Allegro vivace
Oliver faints in court: Tempo rubato -
Comic panic: Allegro
Oliver at Mr. Brownlow's house: Poco lento
Oliver at play: Poco lento - Allegretto semplice
The Portrait -
Oliver's abduction: Lento
Mr. Brownlow's grief: Lento -
Nancy's hysterical outburst: Allegro moderato - Andante
Nancy's flight in the rain to meet Mr. Brownlow: Moderato
Dawn after the Murder: Moderato sereno - Bill Sikes' reverie: Poco lento
Wanted for Murder: Moderato - Lento
Finale [original]: Moderato brillante
Finale [alternative]: Moderato brillante
I. Poco lento. Largamente
II. Lento semplice
III. Allegro vivace
I. Pensive Twilight
II. Dance in the Sun
III. From the Mountains of Home (In the Hills of Home)
IV. The Dance of Wild Irravel
I. Allegretto semplice
II. Lento e molto expressivo
III. Rondo: Allegro vivace
I. Allegro - Tempo vivace
II. Lento molto espressivo - Poco allegro
III. Allegro vivace - Lento
I. Allegro
II. Poco lento
III. Scherzo and Trio
IV. Allegro
I. Tempo moderato
II. Tranquillo
III. Tempo primo
I. Tempo molto moderato - Allegro moderato
II. Lento espressivo
III. Allegro giocoso
II. Nocturne
III. In a Vodka Shop
I. Molto moderato - Allegro
II. Tempo primo
III. Allegro
I. Molto moderato (quasi andante) - Allegretto scherzando (ma non troppo presto)
II. Lento espressivo
III. Vivace e feroce (ma non troppo presto)
Moderato. Tempo vaccilando
Poco lento
Molto vivace ma non troppo - Epilogue
I. Molto moderato
II. Vivace
I. Molto moderato - Allegro
II. Allegro energico e non troppo presto
III. Molto lento
I. Molto moderato
II. Allegro
I. Moderato tempo
II. Allegro vivace - poco piu lento
III. Moderato tempo - Smooth and Serene
II. Slow and Sombre (original movement)
III. Allegro molto vivace (original movement)
I. Slow and gloomy
II. The Grey Dancer in the Twilight
III. Very broad and concentrated, but extremely expressive
IV. Allegro feroce
I. Moderato
II. Allegro molto
Allegro risoluto
I. In the Forest before Dawn
II. Daybreak and Sunrise
III. Full Day
IV. Woodland Love - Romance
V. Maenads
Part II: Variation 4, "The Temple": Slow and solemn
Part II: Variation 5, "Play": Scherzo: Allegretto vivace
Part II: Intermezzo, "Enchantment": Very moderate tempo
Part II: Variation 6, "Triumph": Moderate tempo: Glowing and passionate
I. Allegro moderato e feroce
II. Lento solenne
III. Allegro maestoso - Allegro vivace ma non troppo presto - Tempo di marcia trionfale
I. Molto moderato - Allegro moderato
II. Andante
III. Poco largamente - Allegro feroce - Molto largamente
I. Lento moderato - Allegro moderato - Allegro feroce - Lento moderato - Allegro moderato - Piu lento - Allegro
II. Lento
II. Moderato - Epilogue: Poco lento
I. Allegro moderato
II. Lento moderato
III. Allegro
I. Poco lento - Allegro con fuoco
II. Poco lento
III. Poco moderato
I. Moderato - Allegro con fuoco
II. Lento, molto espressivo
III. Introduction - Scherzo and Trio - Epilogue
I. Allegro
II. Lento - In Legendary Mood: Piu mosso - Tempo I
III. Theme and Variations: Allegro - Andante - Vivace - Epilogue
I. Molto moderato - Allegro moderato
II. Andante
III. Poco largamente - Allegro feroce - Molto largamente
No. 1. Gypsy Song
No. 2. The Well of Tears
No. 3. Misconception
No. 4. My Girdle I Hung on a Tree-top Tall
No. 5. Spinning Song
Part I: Overture -
Part I: Entry of Karissima -
Part I: Karissima Plays Golf -
Part I: Karissima and Lady Vere -
Part I: The Walking Lesson -
Part I: Lord Vere Tells His Mother of His Love for Karissima -
Part I: Karissima Appeals for Love -
Part I: Karissima Droops Pathetically -
Part I: Karissima's Dance of Joy -
Part I: The Wedding Ceremony -
Part I: Dance: Corps de ballet -
Part I: The Wedding Service -
Part I: A Wild Night - The Maestro -
Part I: The Clock Strikes Twelve -
Part I: Lord Vere Pleads for a Child -
Part I: Karissima and Lord Vere Go Off in Gay Delight
Part II: Dance of Motherhood -
Part II: The Funeral of Karissima ?
Part II: Child's Dance -
Part II: Karissima's Farewell -
Part II: Finale: Allegro vivace
Threnody: Poco lento
Scherzo: Allegro
I. Allegro con brio
II. Adagio (alla breve) con moto
III. Tempo moderato e molto ritmico
I. Allegro
II. Lento, molto espressivo
III. Molto moderato - Allegro molto
III. Epilogue: Molto cantabile

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