Parlett Pages UK

BAXWORKS : 1896-1904

The music of Sir Arnold Bax (1883-1953)
Catalogued by Graham Parlett


Butterflies All White
GP1. Bax's first known composition was completed at age 13, according to his sister Evelyn. It does not survive and the text is unknown, but the title is a line (not the first) from John Davidson's translation of Coppée's play Pour la Couronne.


Marcia Trionfale
26. Ten-minute piano piece written on a family holiday at the Isle of Wight.
Fantasia in A minor
40. Bax's first composition for two pianos was written shortly after he entered the Royal Academy of Music.
Funeral March
41. Marked "In Mem. P.I.T.", presumably Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky.


Trio in B♭ minor
47. For violin, cello and piano. Only the first of four projected movements exists, and four pages of that are missing from the MS. Sketches for the slow movement were discovered in 2007.
Violin Sonata in G minor
49. Violin and piano. Dedicated to Gladys Lees, "who held Bax in thrall during his first term at the RAM" (GP). "A more tiresome work we cannot recall" (Daily Telegraph. Reviewer unidentified. Sounds like Mr Pooter).


String Quartet in A
55. Interesting as the first example of the typically Baxian structure of a four-movement work reduced to three by the agglutination of scherzo and finale.
String Quartet in E
57. Interesting for its second movement (adagio), which was later arranged as a string trio subtitled Cathaleen-ni-Hoolihan (itself converted into an orchestral tone-poem of the same name), and reappears thinly disguised in the first movement of the Third Symphony


Concert Piece
59. For viola and piano. "It reveals gifts and force which look well for the future" ("P.S." [Percy Scholes?], The Musical Standard).
Concert Piece (2)
60. Violin version of the preceding viola piece.
Variations for Orchestra (Improvisations)
61. Bax's earliest completed orchestral work, written during his fourth year at the RAM, won the Charles Lucas Medal for composition - but the fright of being pushed on podium to conduct it, without advance warning, put him off the experience of conducting for life. For all its youthfulness (Bax was 20 when he wrote it) it is a remarkably competent and coherent work, full of fingerprints to those who recognise them, and auguring well for the future. We are fortunate in now having access to variations after more than 100 years since that first amateur performance. GP produced a computerised score, which composer/conductor Martin Yates further edited. Yates then conducted the BBC Concert Orchestra in the work's first ever professional performance at the English Music Festival* in Dorchester Cathedral on 23 May 2014. [*Link removed because website compromised.]
  • Theme: Moderato allegro
  • Variation 1: Allegro moderato
  • Variation 2: L'istesso tempo
  • Variation 3: Andante con moto
  • Variation 4: Tempo di valsero
  • Variation 5: Burlesque (Allegretto scherzando)
  • Variation 6 Allegretto e semplice
  • Finale: Allegro vivace
A Celtic Song Cycle (1904)
63.Text: "Fiona MacLeod" (William Sharp). Dedication "To Miss Gladys Lees". Revised (slightly) 1922.
   (a) Eilidh my Fawn
   (b) Closing Doors
   (c) Thy dark eyes to mine
   (d) A Celtic Lullaby
   (e) At the last.
64. Trio for 2 violins and piano. Evidently an arrangement of the slow movement of the String Quartet in E (GP57), later recast as an orchestral tone-poem. Cathaleen-ni-Hoolihan is one of the personifying epithets of Ireland.