Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Arnold Bax: Symphony No.1 First Perforamnce - Contemporary Review

Further to the article from the January 1923 edition of The Chesterian I post this contemporary review of Arnold Bax's fine First Symphony. As I understand it, this reivew is written by Leigh Henry.

Bax is responsible for the most arresting novelty of the season, a Symphony No.1, given under Albert Coates by the London Symphony Orchestra at their fourth concert [4th November 1922]. This is a three-movement work, corresponding in conception to three main moods-strife, lamentation, and exultation-respectively. It is an intensely personal type of work; but the composer synthesised what might otherwise have been rather obscure significances into such clearly-defined, though broad frescoes of musical imagery, that the work remains purely musical, and yet achieves its expressive function by direct sensatory impact-by thematic, harmonic, and orchestral colour, and rhythmic force.
Typically Celtic in thematic content, the bard-like quality of its subjects is emphasised by their generally declamatory character; and over the whole work pervades that high spirit of drama, tragedy and heroism which, even more rare than Greek art, is epitomised in such soul-gripping legends as that of Conary Mor in the ancient Red Branch Cycle of Ireland. This is the type of conception most universal to the Celtic race, Erse, Brythonic and Gael; and this work of Bax is peculiarly significant in that it provides conclusive counter-proof to the Saxon allegations of the dream-bound and esoteric nature of Celtic inspiration.
For it is not so generally recognised as it should be that the Celtic genius is responsible for some of the most vigorous elements of British tradition, from the early polyphony which culminated in the Tudor era, and the mythology which laid the foundations of medieval chivalry and the Morte d'Arthur to which English literature, from Spenser to Tennyson, owes so much.
The Chesterian January 1923 p.115

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