Sunday, 12 October 2008

Arnold Bax: The earliest known article on his music.

Recently I located this article in the Monthly Musical Record. According to Lewis Foreman's magisterial biography of the composer it is the first know pen-portrait of the composer. There are a number of earlier notices of performances - but this is the first attempt at giving a brief outline of Bax's life and works at that time. I have published it as written with one or two minor editorial changes. I include a few footnotes for completeness.
We have great pleasure in publishing in this number a portrait [1] of Mr. Arnold Bax, who was born in 1883, and entered the Royal Academy of Music in 1900, where he studied composition for five years under Professor Frederick Corder. He made his debut as a composer in 1903 at the old St. James Hall. Since that date he has been prolific in the matter of composition. A Celtic Song Cycle [2] (settings of some of Fiona Macleod’s poems) was produced by Mr. Thomas Dunhill at one of his British chamber-music concerts in 1907, and several large works were included in the programmes of Mr. Balfour Gardiner’s two seasons of concerts at the Queen’s Hall [3] in 1912 and 1913, notably a large choral work, Enchanted Summer, which was subsequently performed at one of the London Choral Society’s concerts [4] under Mr. Arthur Fagge.
A new orchestral work in four movements, Spring Fire, [5] was down for performance at last year’s Norwich Festival, which did not take place owing to the war. Much of Mr. Bax’s music is steeped in the mysterious atmosphere of Celtic mythology. In this respect it has some affinity with the poetry of Mr. W.B. Yeats. Nearly all the orchestral works are, according to the composer himself, “based upon aspects and moods of external nature and their relation to human emotion.”
Mr. Bax’s latest compositions include a Piano Quintet and an orchestral poem, The Garden of Fand, inspired by the legend of enchanted isles in the Atlantic, off the western shore of Ireland: and some highly interesting piano solos, entitled In a Vodka Shop, The Princess’s Rose Garden, Sleepy Head and Apple-Blossom Time.
The Monthly Musical Record November 1 1915. (originally taken from the programme book of the Festival of Britain, 1915)

[1] I have made an editorial decision to reproduce the photo that accompanied this article even though it does not scan to a particularly high quality!
[2] A Celtic Song Cycle (Fiona Macleod): Eilidh my Fawn; Closing Doors; The Dark Eyes to Mine; A Celtic Lullaby; At the Last. This was performed at the Queen’s Hall, London on 7 June 1907. The soloist was Miss Ethel Lister with Thomas Dunhill(?) at the piano.
[3] Included the Festival Overture on 27 March 1912 and Enchanted Summer 13 March 1912 The soloists for this work were Miss Caroline Hatchard and Miss Carrie Tubb. The London Choral Society and the New Symphony Orchestra were conducted by Mr. Arthur Fagge. On 4 March 1913 a performance of the Christmas Eve on the Mountains was given at the penultimate Balfour Gardiner concert of the season.
[4] Performed on 4 December 1914.
[5] Spring Fire was not performed until many years later - in 1970. It was given by the Kensington Symphony Orchestra under Leslie Head.

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