Saturday, 28 April 2018


“The trouble with music appreciation in general is that people are taught to have too much respect for music they should be taught to love it instead.” - Igor Stravinsky 

Sir Arnold Edward Trevor Bax KCVO (8 November 1883 – 3 October 1953) was an English composer, poet, and author. His prolific output includes songs, choral music, chamber pieces, and solo piano works, but he is best known for his orchestral music. In addition to a series of symphonic poems he wrote seven symphonies and was for a time widely regarded as the leading British symphonist.

Bax was born in the London suburb of Streatham to a prosperous family. He was encouraged by his parents to pursue a career in music, and his private income enabled him to follow his own path as a composer without regard for fashion or orthodoxy. Consequently, he came to be regarded in musical circles as an important but isolated figure. While still a student at the Royal Academy of Music Bax became fascinated with Ireland and Celtic culture, which became a strong influence on his early development. In the years before the First World War he lived in Ireland and became a member of Dublin literary circles, writing fiction and verse under the pseudonym Dermot O'Byrne. Later, he developed an affinity with Nordic culture, which for a time superseded his Celtic influences in the years after the First World War.

Between 1910 and 1920 Bax wrote a large amount of music, including the symphonic poem Tintagel, his best-known work. During this period he formed a lifelong association with the pianist Harriet Cohen – at first an affair, then a friendship, and always a close professional relationship. In the 1920s he began the series of seven symphonies, which form the heart of his orchestral output. In 1942 Bax was appointed Master of the King's Music, but composed little in that capacity.

In his last years he found his music regarded as old-fashioned, and after his death it was generally neglected. From the 1960s onwards, mainly through a growing number of commercial recordings, his music was gradually rediscovered, although little of it is heard with any frequency in the concert hall. In more recent years, Bax’s music has been (re-)discovered enthusiastically by a new generation via online distribution services such as YouTube.

Here is his Quintet for Oboe & Strings performed by the Camerata Pacifica (Nicholas Daniel, Catherine Leonard, Ara Gregorian, Richard O'Neill & Ani Aznavoorian). Bax composed the Quintet for Oboe and Strings in the closing months of 1922, on the heels of his First Symphony. At the time, a piece for such forces was unusual; surely, Bax was inspired to write the Oboe Quintet by the playing of the famous oboist, Louis Goossens, to whom the composer dedicated the piece. This was quite an honour for the young Goossens.
1. Tempo molto moderato - Allegro moderato - Tempo primo
2. Lento espressivo
3. Allegro giocoso - Più lento - Vivace

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