Monday, 3 October 2016

Arnold Bax: The Earliest Article, 1915

Lewis Foreman in his magisterial book, Arnold Bax: A Composer and his Times (Woodbridge, The Boydell Press, 1983, 2007) has suggested that the present short article from the Monthly Musical Record (November 1915) is the ‘earliest…on the composer that has been traced other than newspaper reviews and lists of works.’ It comprises a short overview of his life extracted from the Programme Book of the 'Festival of British Music, 1915 as well as a photographic portrait of Bax. Little commentary is needed on this text, however, a number of the concerts and recitals mentioned will bear further investigation.  

We have great pleasure in publishing in this number a portrait 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's Hall. [1] Since that date he has been prolific in the matter of composition.
‘A Celtic Song Cycle’ (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 Queen's Hall in 1912 and 1913, notably a large choral work, ‘Enchanted Summer’ which was subsequently performed at one of the London Choral Society's concerts under Mr. Arthur Fagge. A new orchestral work in four movements, ‘Spring Fire’ was down for performance at last year's Norwich Festival, which did not take place owing to the war. [2]
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 the enchanted islands in the Atlantic, off the western shores of Ireland; and some highly interesting pianoforte solos, entitled ‘In a Vodka Shop’ ‘The Princess’s Rose Garden’, ‘Sleepy head’ and ‘Apple Blossom Time.’  (Programme Book of the 'Festival of British Music, 1915).
Monthly Musical Record November 1915.

[1] The premiere of the String Quartet in A major composed in 1902. The third movement only was given on 23 November 1903.

[2] ‘Spring Fire’ was not performed until 8 December 1970, by the Kensington Symphony Orchestra under Leslie Head. 

No comments: