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Arnold Bax

Biography

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 at the
Read more 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
Bax: Orchestral Works  / Andrew Davis, Bbc Philharmonic
Release Date: 09/30/2014   Label: Chandos  
Catalog: 10829   Number of Discs: 1
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Dove: The Three Kings;  Howells, Bax, Tavener, Reger, Etc / Nicholas, Et Al
Release Date: 11/25/2008   Label: Delphian  
Catalog: 34047   Number of Discs: 1
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Browse 1-25 of 177 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    Bax: Orchestral Works  / Andrew Davis, Bbc Philharmonic
    Label: Chandos   Catalog: 10829 Release Date: 09/30/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Arnold Bax
    Performer:  Philip Dukes
    Conductor:  Sir Andrew Davis
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  • 2.
    The Great Recordings / Malcolm Sargent [18-CD Set]
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 634121 Release Date: 04/08/2014   Number of Discs: 18
    Composer:  Sir Edward Elgar,  Sir William Walton,  Ralph Vaughan Williams,  Gustav Holst  ... 
    Performer:  Richard Lewis,  John [baritone (50s)] Cameron,  James Milligan,  Duncan Robertson  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Malcolm Sargent,  André Previn
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra,  Huddersfield Choral Society,  London Symphony Orchestra  ... 
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  • 3.
    The Sea In Music
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8578269 Release Date: 02/25/2014   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Arnold Bax,  Frank Bridge,  Claude Debussy,  Sir Edward Elgar  ... 
    Performer:  Sarah Connolly,  István Kassai,  François-Joël Thiollier
    Conductor:  David Lloyd-Jones,  James Judd,  Jun Märkl,  Simon Wright  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Scottish National Orchestra,  New Zealand Symphony Orchestra,  Lyon National Orchestra  ... 
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  • 4.
    Bax: Symphony In F / Yates, Royal Scottish National Orchestra
    Label: Dutton Laboratories/Vocalion   Catalog: 7308 Release Date: 02/11/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Arnold Bax
    Conductor:  Martin Yates
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Scottish National Orchestra
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  • 5.
    Bartlett & Robertson: Selected Recordings 1927-1947
    Label: Apr   Catalog: 6012 Release Date: 01/14/2014   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Ethel Bartlett,  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Robert Schumann,  Camille Saint-Saëns  ... 
    Performer:  Rae Robertson,  Ethel Bartlett
    Conductor:  Sir John Barbirolli
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  • 6.
    British Works for Cello and Piano, Vol. 2 / Paul Watkins, Huw Watkins
    Label: Chandos   Catalog: 10792 Release Date: 10/29/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  York Bowen,  Arnold Bax,  John Ireland
    Performer:  Paul Watkins,  Huw Watkins
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  • 7.
    Arnold Bax: Works For Cello & Piano
    Label: Sleeveless   Catalog: 1007 Release Date: 09/10/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Arnold Bax
    Performer:  Lionel Handy,  Nigel Clayton
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  • 8.
    Piano Quartets: Bridge, Bax, Wilson, Walton
    Label: Nimbus   Catalog: 6230 Release Date: 09/10/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ian Wilson,  Sir William Walton,  Arnold Bax,  Frank Bridge
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cappa Ensemble
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  • 9.
    Label: Delphian   Catalog: 34104 Release Date: 08/01/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ralph Vaughan Williams,  William Henry Harris,  Thomas Tallis,  Percy Whitlock  ... 
    Performer:  Sam Dressel,  Nick Lee,  Annie Lydford,  Catherine Baumann  ... 
    Conductor:  Geoffrey Webber
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  • 10.
    Takemitsu, Matalon, Debussy, Ravel, Satie, Bax
    Label: Maguelone   Catalog: 111149 Release Date: 06/25/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Toru Takemitsu,  Erik Satie,  Claude Debussy,  Martin Matalon  ... 
    Performer:  Clara Novakova,  Nicolas Tulliez
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Trio Nobis
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  • 11.
    Bax, Bliss, Vaughan Williams: Sonatas, Suite For Viola And Piano / Euler, Rivinus
    Label: Md&g (Dabringhaus & Grimm)   Catalog: 9031796 Release Date: 04/09/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Sir Arthur Bliss,  Arnold Bax,  Ralph Vaughan Williams
    Performer:  Christian Euler,  Paul Rivinius
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  • 12.
    Viola Sonatas, Idylls & Bacchanals
    Label: Em Records   Catalog: 7 Release Date: 02/12/2013   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Arnold Bax,  John McEwen,  Dame Elizabeth Maconchy,  Gordon Jacob  ... 
    Performer:  Louise Williams,  David Owen Norris
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  • 13.
    Icon - John McCormack [4-CD Set]
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 827642 Release Date: 02/05/2013   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  James L. Molloy,  Traditional,  Ralph Vaughan Williams,  Arnold Bax  ... 
    Performer:  John McCormack,  Gerald Moore,  Nellie Melba,  Edna Thornton  ... 
    Conductor:  Lawrence Collingwood,  Walter Goehr
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestra
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  • 14.
    Bax: Phantasy; Vaughan Williams, Holland, Harvey / Chase, Bell, BBC Concert Orchestra
    Label: Dutton Laboratories/Vocalion   Catalog: 7295 Release Date: 01/08/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Arnold Bax,  Theodore Holland,  Ralph Vaughan Williams,  Richard Harvey
    Performer:  Roger Chase
    Conductor:  Stephen Bell,  Richard Harvey
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Concert Orchestra
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  • 15.
    English Choral Music
    Label: Heritage   Catalog: 213 Release Date: 07/17/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Michael Tippett,  Ralph Vaughan Williams,  Lennox Berkeley,  Herbert Howells  ... 
    Performer:  Rachel Elliott,  Hester [Soprano Vocal] Gomme,  Ruth Morris,  Tanya Wicks  ... 
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  • 16.
    Label: Heritage   Catalog: 233 Release Date: 07/17/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Gustav Holst,  Arnold Bax
    Conductor:  Sir Adrian Boult
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  • 17.
    Harriet Cohen - Complete Solo Studio Recordings
    Label: Apr   Catalog: 7304 Release Date: 07/10/2012   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Ralph Vaughan Williams,  Hubert Bath,  Arnold Bax  ... 
    Performer:  Harriet Cohen
    Conductor:  Sir Henry Wood,  Walter Susskind,  Hubert Bath,  Muir Mathieson
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra,  London Symphony Orchestra
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  • 18.
    Terzetti / The Debussy Ensemble
    Label: Divine Art   Catalog: 25099 Release Date: 06/12/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Arnold Bax,  Claude Debussy,  Maurice Ravel,  William Mathias  ... 
    Performer:  Susan Milan,  Matthew Jones,  Ieuan Jones
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Debussy Ensemble
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  • 19.
    The Thurston Connection - English Music For Clarinet And Piano / Cox, Buckle
    Label: British Music Society   Catalog: 440 Release Date: 05/08/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Arnold Bax,  Roger Fiske,  Iain Hamilton,  Hugh Wood  ... 
    Performer:  Ian Buckle,  Nicholas Cox
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  • 20.
    Delius And His Circle / Paul Guinery
    Label: Stone Records   Catalog: 8013 Release Date: 04/10/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Cyril Scott,  Arnold Bax,  Frederic Austin,  Frederick Delius  ... 
    Performer:  Paul Guinery
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  • 21.
    British Clarinet Sonatas / Collins, McHale
    Label: Chandos   Catalog: 10704 Release Date: 03/27/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John Ireland,  Charles Villiers Stanford,  Sir Arthur Bliss,  Arnold Bax  ... 
    Performer:  Michael Collins,  Michael McHale
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  • 22.
    My First Lullaby Album
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8578213 Release Date: 03/27/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johannes Brahms,  Felix Mendelssohn,  Igor Stravinsky,  Robert Schumann  ... 
    Performer:  Jénö Jandó,  Idil Biret,  Einar Steen-Nökleberg,  Stefan Veselka  ... 
    Conductor:  Peter Breiner,  Anthony Bramall,  Alexander Rahbari,  Keith Clark  ... 
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  • 23.
    English Clarinet Sonatas / Anna Czaicka, Dawid Jarzynski
    Label: Dux Records   Catalog: 798 Release Date: 03/13/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John Ireland,  Arnold Bax,  Joseph Horovitz,  Herbert Howells  ... 
    Performer:  Anna Czaicka,  Dawid Jarzynski
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  • 24.
    English Classics
    Label: Hallé   Catalog: 7532 Release Date: 11/08/2011   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  George Butterworth,  Frederick Delius,  Traditional,  Ralph Vaughan Williams  ... 
    Performer:  Joseph Taylor,  Lyn Fletcher,  James Gilchrist
    Conductor:  Mark Elder,  John Wilson
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  • 25.
    Made In Britain / James Clark, John Wilson, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic
    Label: Avie   Catalog: 2194 Release Date: 11/08/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Arnold Bax,  George Butterworth,  Frederick Delius,  Sir Edward Elgar  ... 
    Performer:  James Clark
    Conductor:  John Wilson
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
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