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
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
Bax: Symphony No 3, The Happy Forest / Lloyd-jones, Et Al
Release Date: 02/22/2000   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8553608   Number of Discs: 1
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Bax: Symphony No 1, In The Faery Hills, Etc / Lloyd-jones
Release Date: 06/09/1998   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8553525   Number of Discs: 1
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Bax: Sinfonietta, Overture, Elegy And Rondo / Wordsworth
Release Date: 08/19/2003   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8555109   Number of Discs: 1
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Bax: Symphony No 6, Etc / Lloyd-jones, Et Al
Release Date: 04/15/2003   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8557144   Number of Discs: 1
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Bax: Symphony No 7, Tintagel / Lloyd-jones, Royal Scottish
Release Date: 11/18/2003   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8557145   Number of Discs: 1
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Browse 151-163 of 163 Available Recordings
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  • 151.
    Debussy, Ravel, Bax, Casella: Works For 2 Pianos
    Label: Connoisseur Society   Catalog: 4171 Release Date: 12/01/1995   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Arnold Bax,  Alfredo Casella,  Maurice Ravel,  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Cosmo Buono,  David Bradshaw
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  • 152.
    British Composers - Vaughan Williams, Bax / Barbirolli
    Label: Emi Classics Special Import   Catalog: 65110 Release Date: 02/14/1995   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Arnold Bax,  Ralph Vaughan Williams
    Conductor:  Sir John Barbirolli
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  Philharmonia Orchestra
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  • 153.
    Bax, Hummel, Brahms, Bach / Hartmut Lidemann, Ben Martin
    Label: Tacet   Catalog: 35 Release Date: 02/01/1994   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johannes Brahms,  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Johann Nepomuk Hummel,  Arnold Bax
    Performer:  Hartmut Lindemann,  Ben Martin
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  • 154.
    An Irish Rhapsody / Handley, Thomson, Ulster Orchestra
    Label: Chandos Collect   Catalog: 6525 Release Date: 10/28/1992   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Charles Villiers Stanford,  Sir Hamilton Harty,  Arnold Bax,  Ernest John Moeran
    Performer:  Lee Pan Hon
    Conductor:  Vernon Handley,  Bryden Thomson
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ulster Orchestra
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  • 155.
    Bax: String Quartet No 1, Etc / English Qt, Mccabe, Kanga
    Label: Chandos   Catalog: 8391 Release Date: 10/28/1992   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Arnold Bax
    Performer:  Skaila Kanga,  Skaila Kanga,  John McCabe
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English String Quartet
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  • 156.
    Bax: Symphony No 2, Nympholet / Thomson, London Po
    Label: Chandos   Catalog: 8493 Release Date: 10/28/1992   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Arnold Bax
    Performer:  Malcolm Hicks
    Conductor:  Bryden Thomson
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
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  • 157.
    Bax: Symphony No 3, Etc / Thomson, London Philharmonic
    Label: Chandos   Catalog: 8454 Release Date: 10/28/1992   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Arnold Bax
    Conductor:  Bryden Thomson
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
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  • 158.
    Seascapes
    Label: Chandos Collect   Catalog: 6538 Release Date: 10/28/1992   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Arnold Bax,  Benjamin Britten,  Jean Sibelius,  Hector Berlioz  ... 
    Conductor:  Bryden Thomson,  Vernon Handley,  Sir Alexander Gibson,  George Hurst
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra,  Ulster Orchestra,  Royal Scottish National Orchestra  ... 
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  • 159.
    Bax: Clarinet Sonata; Bliss, Vaughan Williams / Janet Hilton
    Label: Chandos   Catalog: 8683 Release Date: 09/30/1992   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Sir Arthur Bliss,  Arnold Bax,  Ralph Vaughan Williams
    Performer:  Keith Swallow,  Janet Hilton
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Lindsay String Quartet
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  • 160.
    Bax: Symphony No 4, Tintagel / Thomson, Ulster Orchestra
    Label: Chandos   Catalog: 8312 Release Date: 07/29/1992   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Arnold Bax
    Conductor:  Bryden Thomson
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ulster Orchestra
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  • 161.
    20th Century Romantic Music For Two Pianos / Pierce, Jonas
    Label: Koch International Classics   Catalog: 7013 Release Date: 08/1990   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Arnold Bax,  Sergei Rachmaninov,  Benjamin Britten,  Witold Lutoslawski  ... 
    Performer:  Joshua Pierce,  Dorothy Jonas
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