SIR ARNOLD BAX
This is the height of the romantic daring. Pure passion and unabashed adoration to beauty.
Once and again, un-wavered by the pursuit of fame…
A sympathetic Scot summed it all up very neatly in the remark, “You should make a point of trying every experience once, excepting incest and folk dancing.”
Sir ARNOLD BAX
Sir Arnold Bax, original name in full Arnold Edward Trevor Bax (born November 8, 1883, London—died October 3, 1953, Cork, County Cork, Ireland), British composer whose work is representative of the neoromantic trend in music that occurred between World Wars I and II.
In 1900 he entered the Royal Academy of Music where he studied the piano. Influenced by the Celtic Revival and Irish poetry, he wrote in 1909 the symphonic poem In the Faëry Hills. He spent the year 1910 in Russia. During the following years, under the pseudonym Dermot O’Byrne he published short stories and poems in Ireland, where he spent much time. In 1916 and 1917 he wrote three symphonic poems, The Garden of Fand, Tintagel, and November Woods, which established his reputation. His ballet, The Truth About the Russian Dancers, on a scenario by the playwright J.M. Barrie, was produced by Serge Diaghilev in 1920. Between 1921 and 1939 he wrote seven symphonies dedicated to the musicians he admired, among them John Ireland and Jean Sibelius. He also wrote numerous piano and chamber works, including a sonata for viola and harp (1928) and a nonet for winds, strings, and harp (1931). Living for long periods on the coasts of Ireland and Scotland, he wrote music that was romantically evocative and richly orchestrated. He was knighted in 1937 and in 1941 was appointed Master of the King’s Musick.
In his time, regarded as a major British symphonist, Arnold Edward Trevor Bax (November 8, 1883 – October 3, 1953) also led the life of a poet and playwright. He studied at the Royal Academy of Music, winning both composition prizes and a reputation as a legendary pianist. Among his other skills, he could reduce complex orchestral scores to the piano at sight. In his early years, Bax from time to time accompanied musicians and in this capacity won the admiration of both Arnold Schoenberg and Claude Debussy. However, he had no interest in pursuing a virtuoso career.
In the early 1900s, he became infatuated with Ireland and the Celtic Twilight literary movement, represented most strongly by Yeats. The west of Ireland became one of his favorite places, and he visited there again and again. He began to publish poems, plays, and stories with Irish themes under the name Dermot O’ Byrne.
Around 1910, Bax also became fascinated with Russian music through a trip there and through the London performances of the Ballets Russes and composed pastiches of Russian music, mainly for piano. The First World War probably affected Bax less than the Irish Troubles of the same time. Indeed, the British censor banned a collection of his poetry because of its strong pro-Irish stance. His major scores of the period – Spring Fire, Tintagel, The Garden of Fand, and the austere November Woods – take their inspiration either from Irish legend or landscape. When Bax’s stock had plunged to its lowest, some of these works kept his name alive and others, notably Spring Fire, led to his rehabilitation.
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