Parlett Pages UK

BAXWORKS : 1905-1909

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


A Connemara Revel
68. Also called An Irish Overture. Now lost.
Leaves, Shadows and Dreams
69. For voice and piano. Text: Fiona McLeod, "The Old Bard's Song", from the play The Immortal Hour.
In the Silences of the Woods
70. For voice and piano. Text: Fiona McLeod.
Green Branches
71. For voice and piano. Text: Fiona McLeod.
72. Tone poem, originally the slow movement of the Quartet in E (GP57). It contains a quasi-Irish tune that appears, slightly transformed, in both Into the Twilight and the Third Symphony
Viking Battle Song
77. Words by "Fiona Macleod", orchestrated by Graham Parlett(2007).
A Song of Life and Love
78. Lost.
A Song of War and Victory
79. Not lost.


A Hushing Song
81. Text: "Fiona MacLeod" (William Sharp).
I fear thy Kisses, Gentle Maiden
82. Text: Shelley.
The Blessed Damozel
84. For speaker and piano - "A Musical illustration for performance during the recital of D G Rossetti's poem".
The twa Corbies
85. Text: Traditional; from Walter Scott's Border Minstrelsy.
86. Text: Luke's Gospel. Score headed "After a picture by D G Rossetti".
Trio in One Movement
87. For piano, violin and viola (or clarinet). "An early trio of my own which I madly allowed to appear in the catalogue of the [Society of British Composers] has become the very bane of my life; for the firm of J. & W. Chester, which took over all the publications of the Society upon [its] demise, has ever been the principal musical link between ourselves and the Continent, and whenever application is made to them from abroad for an example of my work that early derivative and formless farrago is inevitably sent out, with the natural result that European interest in me is stillborn. I cannot blame Messrs. Chester & Co. (who do not pay rent in Great Marlborough Street for the good of their health), since this trio is the only extended work of mine in their list; but I wish the devil would fly away with the whole remaining stock of the damned thing, and give himself ptomaine poisoning by eating it!" (Farewell My Youth, pp. 88-9.)
Echo  ‌  For Love's Sake  ‌  Garden Song  ‌  Summer Night
88, 89, 90, 91. Four songs of which the first is known only from the 1906-7 Yearbook of the Society of British Composers and the others from one of Bax's notebooks containing mostly cricket scores and batting averages. Text of GP88 ascribed to Christina Rossetti, GP89 to Ben Jonson. Others by A.B.


92. For tenor, chorus and orchestra. Text: Johan Ludvig Runeberg, Vårt land, from Fänrik Ståls Sägner, translated from the Swedish by Clifford Bax. Arnold later described it as "the most moving national poem ever composed". (It was actually written in praise of Finland.) Revised 1934.
The Fiddler of Dooney
93. Text: W B Yeats, but see next.
The Enchanted Fiddle
94. As above, except that Bax changed the title and wrote new text for the existing setting while the work was in proof. He later expressed the view that Yeats's poetry was too good to set to music.
Symphony in F
95. Bax never completed the orchestration: "I was engaged upon a colossal symphony which would have occupied quite an hour in performance, were such a cloud-cuckoo dream ever to become a reality". It was eventually orchestrated by Martin Yates and recorded under him by The Royal Scottish National Orchestra in 2013. For the record, it lasts 78 minutes. Here are some extracts from Lewis Foreman's review of the first performance.
Longing - The Flute (Ideala) - Du Blomst i Dug - From the Hills of Dream - A Milking Sian - The White Peace - Heart o' Beauty - The Kingdom
Texts: (96) "Fiona Macleod", (97) Bjørnstjerne Bjørnsen, (99) P Jacobsen ("O dewy Flower"), (100-103) "Fiona MacLeod". Sian is Gaelic for a chant or cry, not Siân, the Welsh for Jane. (The missing GP number 98 refers to an incomplete manuscript of apparently incidental music.)


A Lyke-Wake Dirge
105. Text: Anonymous, 15th century Scottish border ballad. Lyke-wake is the watch kept at night over a dead body (cf lych-gate). Re-done as one of Three Songs (1933).
106. Opera (unfinished) - "A Saga-drama in Five Scenes and a Prologue". The story of Deirdre first appears in the 12th century Book of Leinster. Bax recycled parts of it as Into the Twilight and Rosc-catha. A third sketch, intended as the opening of Scene V, was orchestrated by Graham Parlett under the title On the Sea-shore and has been recorded. "I have no particular gift for opera," wrote Bax in 1949, "and on the whole do not think it is a medium suited to us as a nation". (My sentiments entirely. - DP.)
Quintet in G
107. For 2 violins, viola, 2 cellos. First performed in 1908, it was described by one critic as "Elaborate, but dull and diffuse". Its second performance, by the 'Divertimenti' at the Lichfield Festival of 2001, revealed this substantial work - in four movements and lasting about 35 minutes - to be full of sparkle, vigour and inventiveness, leaving one to wonder whether the 1908 critic had been awake and sober at the time. Bax reworked a theme from the first movement as the piano piece A Hill Tune (1920) and later revised the slow movement as Lyrical Interlude (1922).
Landskab (Landscape)
108. For contralto or baritone, and piano. Text: J P Jacobsen.
Shieling Song
109. Shieling is grazing-land for cattle. Text: "Fiona MacLeod". Bax dedicated the song to Mrs William Sharp, the widow of "Fiona MacLeod".
Into the Twilight
110. First in the "Éire" trilogy of tone poems based on Irish subjects, the others being In the Faery Hills (below) and Rosc-Catha.
111. Text: "Fiona MacLeod".
The Woodlake
112. Text: attributed to Heinrich Leuthold, Der Waldsee. (Score untraced.)


113. Text: William Morris.
In the Faery Hills
114. Second of "Éire" trilogy (together with Into the Twilight (110, above) and Rosc-Catha), revised in 1921. "[It] attempts to suggest the revelries of the 'Hidden People' in the inmost depths of the hollow hills of Ireland" (A.B.). "[A]n episode in The Wanderings of Oisin... tells of Niamh's luring of Oisin into the isles of revelry. There he is greeted by the immortals; but his song proves too sad for them and seizing his harp they cast it into a deep pool, drawing the singer into the unending revels" (Colin Scott-Sutherland). On a similar note, see also Moy Mell.
The Garden by the Sea
115. Text: William Morris (who actually wrote "A Garden by the Sea".)
A Christmas Carol
116. Text: Anonymous, 15th century.
Aspiration - Beloved, even in Dreams - The Dance Ring - Enlightenment - Home - Ideala
117 - 122. Texts: Richard Dehmel, except GP118 attributed to Friedrich Rückert and 119 to Otto Bierbaum (scores untraced).