Sunday, 11 August 2013

Arnold Bax: A Wish List for Recordings from ‘The Gramophone’ July 1927

My last musings on W.A. Chislett’s contribution to early Arnold Bax discography considers his ‘wish list’ of music deemed to be appropriate for future recording. He suggests that the best place to begin would be with a few of the songs and the shorter piano pieces. A more ambitious ‘first shot’ would include the Quintet for harp and strings. He suggests that for larger scale pieces record companies ‘should choose first of all the ‘Symphonic Variations’ for piano and orchestra (1918) and the Piano Quintet (1915). Interestingly at this time these two works were deemed to be Bax’s finest achievements. Chislett insists that in both these pieces the piano part should be played by Miss Harriet Cohen, if possible.’
He then suggests a few orchestral pieces worthy of recording: his choice here would have been either The Garden of Fand of November Woods. Chislett then makes a swipe at the Gramophone’s editor, Compton Mackenzie who had previously suggested that Tintagel was like ‘an enthusiastic but badly written letter by somebody who had just arrived at the seaside for his holidays.’ Finally Chislett calls for a record of Bax’s choral work ‘To the Name above Every Name’, which has been heard at the 1923 Three Choirs Festival in 1933. 
Like every critic he had now warmed to his subject. Other possibilities were springing into his mind. He writes: ‘I should have liked to include the tone poem In the Faery Hills, the viola concerto and sonata, the short one-movement piano quartet, and one of the string quartets, as well as some more choral music and Moy Mell, an Irish Fantasy for two pianos.’ He concludes by suggesting that ‘a moderate demand such as I have made, however, is more likely to be met that one so large as this would have been.’

Although Mr Chislett would have had to wait many years, all the works listed here have been subsequently recorded. It is a tribute to the revival of interest in Bax’s music that many of these pieces are available in multiple versions. 

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