British Symphonists - Arnold Bax by Jürgen Schaarwächter THE SIR ARNOLD BAX WEB SITE Last Modified December 7, 1997 Note: This is a revised and amended extract from the author's book 'Die britische Sinfonie 1914-1945'. Köln: Musikverlag Christoph Dohr, 1995, pp. 218ff. Rob Barnett assisted in the translation and editing of the text. I would like to thank Herr Schaarwachter for allowing me to post this extract here. INTRODUCTION Arnold Bax was, to all intents and purposes, a forgotten figure at the time of his death. Rediscovery had to bide its time until the beginning of the 1970s. This was largely as a result of Lewis Foreman's outstanding advocacy although the valuable work of Colin Scott-Sutherland and Vernon Handley during the 1960s and later must not be forgotten. Bax studied with Frederick Corder at the RAM alongside his contemporaries Eric Coates, Adam Carse, York Bowen, Benjamin Dale, Myra Hess, Montague Phillips, Paul Corder, Arthur Hinton, William Henry Reed and Harry Farjeon. Corder was a devoted Wagnerian and his pupils often had difficulty in shaking off the Bayreuthian influence. (1) Granville Bantock fell under the same thrall. Liszt was also an influence via Alexander Mackenzie, the Principal of the RAM during Bax's time. Mackenzie had known Liszt in person. At the RAM Bax developed as an excellent pianist. On the other hand he felt an aversion towards conducting whether his own works or those of others. Bax and Ireland, occasionally also Bliss, Scott and Walton, remained after the second world war trapped in late romantic harmony. (2) This was not however the case with Bridge, Holst or Brian. Brian in particular abandoned the late romantic tendency early on. Eric Blom pointed to Bax's habit of slowing down the progress of his works with the presentation of the second theme. (3) This makes Bax's weaknesses during the construction of symphonic movements all the more apparent and lets his nature - in spite of multiple application of the sonata principle movement form appear all the more rhapsodic. (4) Bax was essentially an "ardent, imaginative personality with a great love of nature. One does not find in them mystical experiences but rather a delight in the romantic, the poetical, and the pagan." (5) It is in the tone poems rather than in his symphonies that Bax displays his abilities to best advantage. Minor echoes of Celtic folk-music (6) are of secondary importance in the symphonic canvases. The influence of Sibelius, as will be clear later on, was very much stronger. In all his melodic invention it is motifs rather than themes that attain importance in the course of a Bax movement. Nielsen (7), Tchaikovsky and Borodin were also of no small significance in shaping Bax's scores. (8) "The orchestration of Bax's symphonies confirms previous evidence that his natural mastery and original handling of this medium belong in the foremost rank. His scoring, though apparently generous, rarely outweighs the material: few composers can handle large resources with such self restraint and fine judgement. Bax's musical substance requires for its expression many novel and fascinating relationships between instruments whose combined use has opened up immense possibilities in the field of orchestral writing. He yields nothing to the disastrous fallacy that originality may be attained by the pursuit of novelty per se; but both novelty and virtuosity are given their legitimate place. Illustrations of the composer's felicity in revealing musical character through instrumental means are countless: it must suffice here to mention four. The rich and sombre tone of the viola (9) is ideally suited to the veiled moods distinguishing many reflective passages in the symphonies; the clarinet (10) and cor anglais (11) are perfect exponents of that poignant lyricism in which Bax excels; and no one has appreciated more musically the extent to which the dark sonority of the trombones can express an atmosphere of menace and foreboding. (12) Such marvels of orchestration as occur in the symphonies are not external to, or in any way a substitute for, the essence of creative imagination: they communicate a wealth of original thought which itself justifies so profound an impression upon the receptive listener." (13) SPRING FIRE Bax's first fully-achieved work in symphonic form was Spring Fire, a programme symphony in five parts. It dates from 1913 and was dedicated to Sir Henry J. Wood. Lewis Foreman has provided us with a comprehensive history of the score - a scheduled Queen's Hall performance on 28 February 1916 was cancelled and various other plans came to nothing. It remained unperformed until December 1970 and it was Foreman who, with Leslie Head and his Kensington Symphony Orchestra, promoted this late première. Spring Fire is effectively a single-movement falling into a number of clear segments. Bax himself wrote that it "may be regarded as a kind of freely-worked symphony, the four sections linked together without a break." (14) It is thus comparable to other contemporary works, from Parry's Fifth Symphony (1912) to Strauss's Alpensinfonie (1915) and the symphonies of Granville Bantock in which several movements or sections are also linked. As was not unusual at the time (15) Bax uses quotes from the first chorus of Swinburne's Atalanta in Calydon as mottoes for the sections of the work. The first part is headed 'In the Forest before Dawn'. This Introduction is slow and quiet. Only once at fig. , during the presentation of the theme, do the dynamics rise to give mf. Debussy, Ravel and particularly Bantock's Pagan Symphony (1928) are all recalled here and the main theme of the work appears. This theme gains in importance throughout the work, being further developed and gradually transformed in the second and third parts. The second part (16), 'Dawn and sunrise', continues in the mood of the slow introduction for some time. The theme is presented once again; this time fully stated. 'Full day' (part III) is an Allegro vivace. The development of the material begins. The section's title is sub-headed: Come with bows bent and emptying of quivers, Maiden most perfect, lady of light, With a noise of wind and many rivers, With a clamour of waters and with might. In his programme-note Bax gives a detailed description of the programme he had in mind. His picture is a very real, detailed one, quite comparable to those for which Richard Strauss has been reproached. This, however, is unimportant to the music, its "neo-paganism" (17) reflecting the prevailing spirit of the times evident in the works of Bantock, Ireland and Bridge. The many brilliant orchestral effects and a strong feeling of coherence have hardly ever been surpassed even by his own later symphonies. A short moderate section is inserted in this third part (figs.  to ), and shortly afterwards (fig. ) the fourth part, 'Romance' follows, Molto Moderato. This music is romantic and glowing. Here another quotation is given: For winter rains and ruins are over And all the season of snows and sins, The days dividing lover and lover, The light that loses, the night that wins. And time remembered is grief forgotten, And frosts are slain and flowers begotten , And in green underwood and cover Blossom by blossom the Spring begins. This section represents the recapitulation of the one-movement symphony. The bass clarinet presents the original form of the first theme. Quasi cadenzas by solo violin and solo flute set the scene for the last part 'Maenads', an Allegro vivace. And Pan by noon and Bacchus by night, Fleeter of foot than the fleet-foot kid, Follows with laughing and fills with delight The maenad and the bassarid. This is the coda proper of the symphony, a dance resolving the calmer mood of the 'Romance', leading into a stretta in which the core material is further developed. The Greek Pagan figures and rites that are evoked can also be found in other works, particularly in Rootham's Pan (1912) and Frank Bridge's Enter Spring (1927), a shorter work, less strong in harmony and colour but quite comparable in coherence and concentration. SYMPHONY NO. 1 On April 27, 1921, Bax completed the first movement of his Third Piano Sonata. Harriet Cohen was convinced that Bax had, with this movement, created something very much greater which cried out for orchestral treatment. Bax's practice of orchestrating piano pieces was nothing new. In 1916, he had orchestrated the scherzo of a piano sonata begun in 1913. The Russian Suite, written for Diaghilev, had been orchestrated in 1919. The orchestral version of Bax's Mediterranean (1920) was written in 1922. Faced with the decision to write his first 'absolute' symphony, Bax felt compelled to write a new slow movement. This was "the most emotional music he ever wrote. And surely the theme of Ireland, by then in open Civil War, is reflected in it. The symphony was a work apart from the rest of Bax's orchestral output up to that time: a work of such aggression and searing passion as to startle previous admirers of Bax's music and make them ask - why? In it the slow movement in particular seems to reflect some of the moods echoed in the poems written during the war. This movement is a highly charged elegy of great power, and towards the end the music seems to suggest the mourner sinking down in numbed despair (...)." (18) The 1920s were a particularly exciting time for British music. The first British Music Society had been set up in 1919 but had lapsed by the late 1920s. It was to be almost half a century before the present British Music Society was established in 1978. The 1920s were a time of collective commitment to new music and this commitment was especially strong on the Continent which focused strongly on the promotion of new music. The I.S.C.M. was one of the main activists in this field. It had been set up in 1922 with its first festival taking place in Salzburg in August of that year. Edward Dent wrote of this organisation: "The Schönberg 'clique', to their honour, be it said, were anything but narrow-minded; they cast their net over all Europe and America too. They even went so far as to include England, and surely that, in itself, was proof enough of their utter unmusicality. Never had England been represented so generously in a foreign country - Bliss, Ethel Smyth, Holst, Gerrard Williams, Bax, Gibbs, Goossens and Percy Grainger (Australian)." (19) Bax's new first symphony had such success that it gained a performance at the summer 1924 I.S.C.M. festival in Prague. To set the seal on its eminence it was conducted by none other than the young Fritz Reiner. The result of this celebrity performance was that two months later, in Salzburg, Bax's Viola Sonata, one of his best compositions, was performed. Bax referred repeatedly to his first numbered symphony as "pure music", independent of political or real events - although he expressed himself differently in letters to friends. (20) Havergal Brian wrote an extensive review of the work. This was Brian's first contribution to Musical Opinion, a journal which he later edited by him for many years. (21) Other critics wrote: "We have in this Symphony music of a tense violence and gather that a poetic soul has been affronted with something of singular monstrosity and woefulness in the doings of a wicked world. And what should that be, for a poetic soul of one generation, but the events of 1914 and after? We may wonder if the composer is not still too freshly quivering under the outrage to his sensibility to have made a final expression - this music is not 'emotion remembered in tranquillity,' but an immediate reaction to the shock, in a moment in which all raging retorts are good. The slow movement, a lament of deeply sombre but rich colouring, is that in which pure music has most indubitably disengaged itself from the conflict. Elsewhere we may feel that his crowding thoughts and passionate feelings are not entirely solved. The symphony remains a work of a rare order of imaginativeness, not to speak of its abundant technical invention." (22) "Bax had dredged deeply. Not even Sibelius had conjured up such inimical forces from the grim fastnesses of Tapiola. This is not evil in the religious sense. It is the antithetic juxtaposition of negative and positive - of dark and light - the extension of the basic principles of the two aspects of life, the male and female counterparts of the id, and thus ultimately the dichotomy of his own inner personality, symbolically presented, at the very outset, in the major/minor clash with which the first symphony opens. Bax's symphonic design was intuitive. (...) The first Symphony is primarily concerned with a single idea, albeit of a dual nature, embodied in the first five bars of the work. To this grim exposition the central lyrical matter acts not as a foil but as a complement underlining the powerful nature of the material from which the music is hewn. It offers no escape, no solution." (23) Bax's technique of working with a germ cell is one of the most essential Sibelian traits in Bax's style, and it offered a concentration of material which he appeared unable to draw on in the earlier tone poems and in Spring Fire. Amongst contemporary works the first symphony is only outdone in this respect by Vaughan Williams' Pastoral Symphony. It was nevertheless an easy task for Bax to manage an even stronger cyclical unity in later works - although he had, in the Second Symphony, to have recourse to means he had applied in the tone poems, to accept a retrograde step. Bax dedicated the symphony to John Ireland who, according to Herbert Howells, was arrogant enough to be completely uninterested although it was Bax's best work at that point. (24) In fact Ireland was exceptionally positive about the work: "Bax (...) has atmosphere; Bax is a musician; he is a genius." (25) Havergal Brian also expressed himself in similar terms; also insisting on a kinship between Bax and Ireland: "Bax shows a soul affinity with John Ireland in his bitter defiance and sarcastic acidity against the trammels of convention. Has anyone ever got up from playing that storm-tossed sonata of John Ireland without wondering what was in the cups of bitterness the composer swallowed which is described in such wonderful and forceful music? In its fierceness, it has the character of an enraged giant hurling rocks at his enemies. There is a great deal of this feeling in the art of Bax, and nowhere else is there so much of it as in his new symphony. It breathes defiance and triumph." (26) SYMPHONY NO. 2 Already the First Symphony tended towards Sibelian technique in its manipulation and development of germ motives. This was taken the next step further in the Second Symphony. Four germs, presented in the slow introduction of the first movement rule and dominate the entire structure of the Second Symphony (1924-25) in E minor and C and lend it a singular structural concentration. Formally Sibelius serves as the model in the first movement which begins in C and ends in E minor. Sibelius's Fifth Symphony shows how convincing a first movement can be when it is associated with a scherzo. With the Second Symphony it is also evident that Bax had become acquainted with the symphonies of Carl Nielsen, in particular the Fourth. Like Nielsen, Bax uses "progressive tonality". This can be seen in the slow movement which first wanders through different keys before it ends in B major. (27) The final movement of the symphony, beginning in C and finally ending in C major, lays down a line of evolution that bears full fruit in the Third Symphony: "The last fifty nine bars are in fact an epilogue - more formed than in the First Symphony, although not marked as such - and we can witness here Bax tentatively exploring the use of the three-movements-plus-epilogue form that is such a feature of the later symphonies. The music finally fades into silence, and if this is to be taken as an emotional self-portrait it is a frightening one. The desolation that Bax paints at the close will not be more fully explored in music until the last movement of Vaughan Williams' Sixth Symphony some twenty years later." (28) The symphony requires the largest orchestra Bax ever prescribed. Though there are fewer deep woodwind instruments than those conspicuous by their presence in the First Symphony (bass [=alto] flute, bass oboe or heckelphone and contrabass sarrusophone), he does specify two tubas (tenor and bass tuba), piano, organ, celesta, two harps and an extensive battery of percussion (including glockenspiel, xylophone and gong) instead. The effect that Bax can create with this instrumental palette strikingly resembles that created by Walton some years later in Belshazzar's Feast. Bax also draws on the savagery of his tone poems. His use of the organ in the final movement adds to this gaudy effect. In the calmer middle movement and in the more lyrical passages of the finale, he also foreshadows the later movie soundtracks (in particular Oliver Twist). Bax was annoyed by the critics' who attributed programmes to his works. His reaction to programmatic interpretation in the case of the First Symphony illustrates the point: "Why do the critics, when I write craggy, northern works like the Second and Fifth Symphonies, November Woods and The Tale the Pine Trees Knew, talk of a Celtic Twilight? This enrages me." (29) In its open acknowledgement of the 'craggy, northern' influence this statement admits that he did not write his music independent of any kind of influence. Rather, it is a question of quite subjective music carrying the unmistakable impress of personal emotional turmoil. The symphony is described by Foreman as a reflection of the downfall of his relationship with Harriet Cohen. It is as Foreman maintains "the most autobiographical of any of Bax's works". (30) Bax himself wrote in a letter at times of the first performance: "I put a great deal of time (and emotion) into the writing (...) it should be very broad indeed, with a kind of oppressive catastrophic mood." (31) Critics praised the work to the skies. Josef Holbrooke described the symphony as "a fine powerful work." (32) Edwin Evans wrote: "The Second is introspective, as if the protagonist had been thrown back upon himself, bruised but not submissive. Ferocity gives place to a philosophy that is at times bleak or austere, but without resignation." (33) Eric Blom wrote that: "The oneness which the composer achieves here is due to an exceptionally close thematic workmanship, not to uniformity of tempo and mood within each of the three movements, which indeed would make for trinity rather than unity. Arnold Bax is often reproached for not maintaining the pace and atmosphere of a symphonic or sonata movement throughout, for a habit of frequently letting rhythmic energy flag and allowing all emotional tune to frustrate all energetic purpose. The criticism is by no means unjust and not inapplicable to the present work but the diversity within its movements is compensated for by the reappearance of the principal themes in each of them." (34) SYMPHONY NO. 3 Before Bax turned to the symphony again, he composed in 1927 Overture, Elegy and Rondo. Aware of the challenges of symphonic form he appears to have used this tripartite work in much the same way as Schumann did with his Overture, Scherzo und Finale (1841). It corresponds to symphonic form but in a smaller compass. And, as in the case with Schumann (Second Symphony) the triptych offers an opportunity to further develop evolving ideas which become more securely apparent in the Third Symphony. The Third Symphony was begun in autumn 1928 and completed in February 1929, probably in Morar in the north-west of Scotland. This was the first winter that Bax spent alone far from the hectic hurly-burly of London. Somehow it brought to an end a chapter in Bax's life. Winter Legends, the next major work composed, announced the beginning of a new chapter. (35) The sequence of notes A-B flat-C sharp forms the germ idea of the symphony. Formal foundations and structure are subordinated to the relentless advance of Bax's rhythms. An extensive slow section ( to ) seems to break the basic concept of the first movement. It marks, however, the development of the movement towards "one of the greatest climaxes in modern music." (36) The music of the movement is more chromatic than that of every other symphony of Bax (already out of the introductory theme of the bassoon) and in the slow movement it becomes manifest that chromatics here rule large parts of the music - perhaps apart from the moments of affirmative diatonicism. The third movement has strong rhythmical elements, that correspond to that of the children's song 'Tom, Tom the Piper's Son'. These provide a strongly propulsive element resolved only in the epilogue. A theme presented by the clarinets demonstrates the influence that Bax would have on Malcolm Arnold - however, the use of the clarinet is with Bax, normally a master of the orchestra in best Straussian manner, not sufficiently integrated into the whole. As in the Second Symphony evocations of the soundtrack of Oliver Twist are to be heard. The recapitulation of the introductory theme leads into the epilogue, "and the work ends in complete tranquillity." (37) Robin Hull wrote about the work, that, "although the composer is emphatic in his statement that there is no programme attached, it has been suggested that the symphony possesses the mood of northern legends. Bax agrees that the interpretation is apt, allowing that subconsciously he may have been influenced by the sagas and dark winters of the North (...) the second movement does not share this mood in any way." (38) In the draft score of the work, two lines of Nietzsche are found as a motto: "My wisdom became pregnant on lonely mountains; upon barren stones she brought forth her young." This motto was omitted from the printed score. Bax confirmed in a programme note for the symphony: "the work in its formal aspect deviates little from the lines laid down by the classical composers of the past". He admired the symphonies of Beethoven, in particular the Third and the Ninth. Burnett James reports: "In the first movement of the Bax Third the woodwind set up an insistent rhythm at the end of the introduction which acts as a bridge to the movement proper. It is strikingly similar to the corresponding section of the Beethoven Seventh." (39) The independent formal logic of the symphony needs a first-class conductor able to combine organically the frequent changes of tempo, in particular those encountered in the first movement. Accordingly Bax expressed himself concerning the conductor of the first performance unambiguously: "I would rather have Henry [Wood, the dedicatee] to conduct a first performance of my work than anyone else. He has such an amazing grasp of essentials, and does not mess the music about." (40) Lewis Foreman shows in a survey (the duration marks originate from Edward Downes' disk recording), which sections in the first movement have to be combined with each other (41): Basic speed to Duration slow  6 3' 25" fast  3' 25" slow  8' 58" fast  1' 37" slow  1' 25" fast End 0' 50" total 19'40" "The Third Symphony has many very vigorous and energetic passages, but it is the slower sections of the work especially that make the deepest impressions. In the middle of the first movement there is a Lento moderato in E flat (...), and this together with the closing passage in the last movement (Epilogue - Poco Lento) are both beautifully conceived and managed. The moods that are recalled in such passages as these can be traced in the slower sections of Sibelius's Seventh Symphony, and in the middle movement of the Third Symphony as well. These exquisite passages in the faster movements of the Bax symphony are matched by the refinement of the slow movement, which was one of the most restrained and distinguished that Bax wrote. The use of the horns in the movement as a whole is very impressive." (42) Ralph Vaughan Williams reports: "I first got to know Bax well in 1914, at the time of Bevis Ellis's Queen's Hall concerts. We were discussing my, then new, London Symphony (43). One passage disappointed me and I asked his advice. He suggested the addition of a counter-melody on the oboe. Indeed he sat down at the pianoforte and improvised one. This actual passage was too obviously Baxian to make its inclusion possible. But, following his advice, I made up another which, though not nearly so good as his, was more in keeping with the rest of the movement. Later on I was able to do something to return the compliment when I persuaded him to add about sixteen bars to the coda of the first movement of his Third Symphony." (44) Vaughan Williams wove a couple of bars from the epilogue of the symphony into the epilogue of his Piano Concerto (1926-31). (45) Moeran also borrowed material from the final movement for his Violin Concerto. (46) WINTER LEGENDS Bax began work on Winter Legends for piano and orchestra very soon after completing the Third Symphony. This work also is in three movements, with an epilogue which would have been worthy of a further symphony, and furthermore with a clear reference to the epilogue of the Third Symphony. Although dedicated initially to Sibelius, short before the first performance this was altered in favour of Bax's long-time companion, Harriet Cohen. "Chronologically and emotionally the concerto was another symphony in Arnold's mind - 'my No. 4 really', he would say, and it was to lead, inevitably, to the great Fifth Symphony which was dedicated to Sibelius. 'In these two works,' Bax said, 'I have gone Northern!'" (47) Sibelius loved both works, saying, according to Harriet Cohen, "Bax is my son in music." (48) "It is abstract music, of course", he said about Winter Legends, "and any 'programme', remember, is a curious thing - any concrete ideas that may be in it of place or things are of the North - Northern Ireland, Northern Scotland, Northern Europe - in fact, the Celtic North." (49) SYMPHONY NO. 4 In February 1931 Bax completed his Fourth Symphony, begun in October 1930, and dedicated it to his friend of student days, Paul Corder. With this work, and for the first time, Bax permitted himself a programmatic description. He admitted that the beginning of the symphony, for him, might represent a rough sea during flood on a sunny day. This comment is significant insofar as the whole symphony sets profound inner conflicts aside and instead gives rein to the "unashamedly extrovert." (50) The general consensus is that the first movement, in spite of exceptional sound-painting, is the most unsatisfactory of the symphony: "isolated lyrical inspirations lie uneasily beside each other. The development section in the opening movement is typical in this respect, where several sections beautiful in themselves and related thematically do not really flow - the larger structure has not been felt." (51) Bax continues the rhapsodic sound-painting in the central slow movement which has much in common with the spirit of the big tone poems. As a nod towards structural considerations Bax refers to the movement as an Intermezzo. "The last movement in some way suffers from the problems of the first: how to make its slow section flow from the virile, impassioned, orchestral sweep of its opening allegro. The colour created by trumpets trilling in triads in this evocation perhaps momentarily recalls the Debussy of La Mer, underlining Bax's continued programmatic point of departure in the work. It concludes with an extended coda, Tempo di Marcia trionfale, and in 71 bars of gloriously coloured orchestral tutti Bax ends on a note of confidence and affirmation. The organ joins this thrilling sound, again with a 16 foot pedal note underpinning the tonality; indeed, without the organ it is difficult for Bax's effects to be fully made." (52) "Throughout the movement one feels that Bax's concentration upon such pleasing matters absolves the listener from a need to look for excessive profundity of aim, though the musical quality of his lighter-hearted moments is never less than sufficient." (53) Despite Foreman's opinion, this comparative lightness helps to draw attention away from shortcomings in the linear organisation of the movements. In the Third Symphony the contrasts do not seem so extreme. Sibelius' influence is in the background in the Fourth Symphony, although the rather relaxed mood parallels that in Sibelius' Fifth Symphony which is a much finer work than the Bax symphony. Critical reaction to the symphony was varied. Bax's "Symphony No. 4 has revealed how complete is his present recognition of the stronger virtues attached to the exercise of judicious economy." wrote Robert Hull. (54) William Walton on the other hand expressed in a letter to Hubert Foss: "I should like to hear your considered opinion on Bax's 4th and the new Bliss work [probably Morning Heroes]. Instinct tells me that with the Bax, we have heard it all before at perhaps even greater length. Harriet Cohen told me it was all so gay, just like Beethoven [A certain similarity in fact to Beethoven's Fourth Symphony is striking and the work does represent a kind of relaxation from the more concentrated and epic Eroica.], but perhaps better rather than that master, but my instinct (or is it prejudice) tells me otherwise." (55) SYMPHONY NO. 5 "During the 'twenties Bax became interested in Sibelius but no overt reference to that composer is apparent before he first heard Tapiola in 1928. The beginnings of a conscious nod at a Sibelian style occurs in the Third Symphony. However, Bax's preoccupation with Sibelius is really a phenomenon of the early 'thirties. Certainly he was very impressed by the first performance of Tapiola in England: 'Half way through I turned to look at Arnold, and tears were pouring down his face. Years later he was to tell me that he and Cecil Gray had decided that if Sibelius had written nothing else, this work would place him among the immortals for all time.'" (56) "I find it very significant, that having absorbed Sibelian mannerisms in the Third Symphony and Winter Legends, and becoming increasingly interested in a Sibelian subject matter, his overtly Sibelian works follow his visit to Finland in the summer of 1931." (57) Burnett James took a view opposing Foreman's: "The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that, much though Bax admired Sibelius, it is a red herring. I am convinced the line runs far more accurately from Mahler through Bax to Shostakovich. The famous meeting between Sibelius and Mahler seems to me to put Bax squarely in the Mahler not the Sibelius camp. I think this is important, because the eternal references to Sibelius only work to Bax's disadvantage, since his mind worked in a totally different orbit. Bax, with his confessed Russian affiliations, looks forward to Shostakovich not back to Sibelius, although at the time and for some time afterwards the real connection could not be seen." (58) This may, however, have been meant in Bax's defence; the investigation of the relationship between Bax and Shostakovich is nevertheless a worthwhile task. The march at the beginning of the Fifth Symphony calls to mind many a symphony of Shostakovich, and despite obvious differences in other ways, the formal dependence on Sibelius's Third and Fourth Symphony is obvious. The clarinet melody at the beginning of the symphony is a striking reminder of the beginning of the slow movement of Sibelius' Fifth Symphony, while Bax's melodic characteristics are otherwise perhaps less concise than his Finnish counterpart. Furthermore, the first movement of Sibelius' Fifth Symphony was initially two movements, with a clear separation of a slower and of a faster movement. Similar things can be found too in Bax (e.g. Second Symphony). The emotional foundation of the first four symphonies, rooted in conflict, is resolved in the Fifth Symphony. Robert Hull wrote: "In his fourth symphony Bax employed a style which was anything but introspective, and departed from his usual custom by admitting a declared programme. The primary question raised by this brilliantly objective process was whether its nature must be interpreted as a radical change of attitude on Bax's part, or whether the metamorphosis indicated simply a temporary delection from his mainly introspective course. This dilemma is effectively resolved by the evidence of the fifth symphony, which unmistakably resumes the psychological sequence continued throughout the first three symphonies and momentarily interrupted by the fourth. One would expect critical opinion to agree that the fifth symphony (to which no programme is attached) goes much deeper than the fourth, while its character is influenced wholly for good by the objective experience to which the composer submitted after writing his third symphony. The fifth symphony appears to mark the triumphant emergence from an important artistic crisis - a crisis which could only be surmounted by the completion of the fourth symphony and by Bax's inspired recognition of the clearness with which that work directed his return to introspection during the next stage of his symphonic progress." (59) Bax in his endeavours to follow Sibelian methods and develop his movements from a single germ is only partially successful: "his penchant for slow interlude - which could well be assimilated into such a scheme - produces a flawed movement, which although unified on paper, I have never heard satisfactorily realised in sound terms." (60) In passing it should be mentioned that Robert Hull has identified a self-quote in the slow movement (a theme from the slow movement of the First Symphony). Felix Aprahamian refers to an apparent quote from Debussy's Le Promenoir des deux Amants (61) although I do not consider the Debussy reference to be particularly significant. Finally Bax deals as previously in the Second Symphony with the idea of "progressive tonality" (Nielsen): the first movement begins in E minor and ends in C sharp minor, the second movement is in B flat minor, the final movement begins in C sharp minor and ends after multiple references onto E minor in D flat major. (62) SYMPHONY NO. 6 Bax wrote his Sixth Symphony in 1934. It was at first dedicated to Karol Szymanowski, then to Adrian Boult. This time, unlike the four-note-theme in the First Symphony, it is a six-note-theme that gives the first movement its cohesion, sustained throughout the many kaleidoscopic mood changes:- The movement is clearly structured as a sonata first movement, and it is "full of dramatic urgency (the more peaceful second subject forming a brief respite)". (63) To this the slow movement, "full of romantic nostalgia, ending with a curious slow march-like section (Andante con moto) in 6/8 time" (64), offers a clear contrast. The final movement, paralleling the Seventh Symphony, follows a specially devised form: "Introduction-scherzo and trio-Epilogue." Once again a six-note-group sets up the central theme of the movement. The Introduction leads into a lively, forceful scherzo with trio followed by an "Epilogue of grave, wistful beauty." (65), that emulates that of the Third Symphony. This movement structure is a natural vehicle for Bax's contrasting 'episodes'. Certainly this conception is one of the most successful formally that Bax created in his symphonies. A quotation from Tapiola has been identified in this movement. (66) There are also parallels with the much earlier cantata Enchanted Summer (67) but these are relatively unimportant. Kaikhosru Sorabji described the work as "in all respects the most mature and powerful work of Bax that I have ever heard (…). It is at once eloquent, reserved, rich, and sumptuous, yet austere and has a finer sense of form than I ever remember to have encountered anywhere else in Bax's work, with the exception of the first version of the Symphonic Variations for Piano and Orchestra. I know of no other contemporary composer who has a richer, more diversified nor more subtle harmonic sense than Bax. That tendency to a kind of slack diffuseness (...) that at one time was apt to mar Bax's work is certainly not here. The whole work marches irresistibly and irrevocably from point to point with the inevitability of complete mastery." (68) His sometimes "veiled and shadowy" (69) harmony is basically a sign of the times rather than being directly attributable to Sibelius' influence. "(...) in the final climax of the Sixth Symphony, we see the climax of Bax's whole work, "The passing of worlds" Peter J. Pirie has written about this passage; it was more than that for Bax, whose vision was finally realised in this last climax and epilogue. Bax's creative spark was beginning to fail, as he wrote to Vaughan Williams in 1935 - one of an increasing number of such letters to his friends in the ensuing years: 'I am derelict in the doldrums just now and cannot get down to anything.' (70)" (71) SYMPHONY NO. 7 After he had completed the orchestration of the Violin Concerto, Bax began his Seventh (and final) Symphony (1938-39). Many years before, in Tintagel, he had employed a Tristan-quote. In the first movement of this last symphony he again used a quote from that source. This has prompted Lewis Foreman to comment that the movement might reflect "a seascape, perhaps more successful than that in the Fourth Symphony." (72) This contention however does not seem convincing to the author. The rather complex organisation of the movements draws comment. David Cox has remarked on its loose formal structure: "The first movement, although there are two main themes, is so elaborated with subsidiary material, lyrical and dramatic, that formally it comes near to suggesting free fantasy." (73) Lewis Foreman however states that: "It was in a strange mood of nostalgia mixed with objective detachment that he came to the Seventh Symphony. (...) The Seventh is technically the most secure of Bax's symphonies, and at the same time the most relaxed: the summation of the two main streams of his creative life, the symphonic poem and the symphony, at least as far as orchestral music is concerned." (74) The second movement, entitled 'In legendary mood', suggests Nordic legends and, for Foreman, a certain "nostalgia". (75) The final movement takes variation-form unique among Bax's symphonies through the ostinato-like theme. The symphony ends in the calmest epilogue Bax has ever composed, "ending the whole symphonic cycle on a note of profound peace and acceptance." (76) CONCLUSION It is his harmonic and orchestral qualities that stand pre-eminent in Bax's symphonies. Formal aspects are, in many cases, of subsidiary importance. (77) Bax's symphonies contain numerous impressive and imaginative moments but only in some of the symphonies do form and content make a true and equal partnership. Jürgen Schaarwächter 1997 ************************* FOOTNOTES: THE BAX SYMPHONIES INTRODUCTION 1 Cf. Edward Dent: Arnold Bax, in: The Nation and The Athenæum XXXII/8, London 1922, p. 328-330. 2 William Austin: Music in the 20th Century from Debussy through Stravinsky, London 1966, p. 427-428. 3 Eric Blom: Music in England, Harmondsworth/New York 1945, p. 204. 4 Frank Howes: Full Orchestra, London, 1943, p. 112-113. 5 Gordon Jacob: The Composer and his Art, London etc. 1955, p. 92. 6 e.g. the first theme of the slow movement in the Fourth Symphony. 7 Above all in the Second Symphony. 8 Cf. Gwilym Beechey: The Legacy of Bax, in: MO CVI/1271, Bournemouth 1983, p. 359. 9 The first subjects of the slow movements in Nos. 3 and 5 respectively. 10 The opening bars of No. 5; also the main subject (with oboe) in the epilogue to No. 3. 11 The second subject of the slow movement in No. 5. 12 The slow movement of No. 1 furnishes, when studied in its entirety, illustrations of a particularly comprehensive kind. The above examples are no more than representative of innumerable passages showing equally or even more remarkably characteristic handling of these instruments. 13 Robin Hull: Approach to Bax's symphonies, in: M&L XXIII, London 1942, p. 104-105. SPRING FIRE 14 Bax's 1916 concert note, quoted in part in Foreman 1987, 109. 15 Granville Bantock followed this practice in his choral symphony Atalanta in Calydon. 16 Later joined by Bax with the first part, to make the five sections four. 17 Foreman 1987, 109. SYMPHONY NO. 1 18 Lewis Foreman: Bax. A composer and his times, Aldershot/Brookfield, 1987, p. 191. 19 Edward Dent: Looking backward, in: Music Today, I, London 1949, p. 7-8. 20 Cf. Foreman, ibid., p. 191-192. 21 Havergal Brian: The first Symphony of Arnold Bax. 1922, in Malcolm MacDonald (ed.): Havergal Brian on Music. Selections from his Journalism. Volume I: British Music, London 1986, p. 233-240. 22 C.: Arnold Bax's Symphony, in: MT LXV, London/New York 1924, p. 167-168. 23 Colin Scott-Sutherland: Arnold Bax, London 1973, p. 116-118 and 122. 24 Christopher Palmer: Herbert Howells - A Centenary Celebration, London 1992, p. 351. 25 "Cadwal": Exploration, But No "Stunts". John Ireland's Views on The Modern Trend, in: MM III/12, London 1923, p. 363. 26 Havergal Brian: The first Symphony of Arnold Bax, in Malcolm MacDonald (ed.): Havergal Brian on Music I, London 1986, p. 235. SYMPHONY NO. 2 27 Gwilym Beechey: The Legacy of Bax, in: MO CVI/1271, Bournemouth 1983, p. 359. 28 Lewis Foreman: Bax. A composer and his times, Aldershot/Brookfield, 1987, p. 217. 29 Harriet Cohen: A Bundle of Time, London 1969, p. 37. 30 Lewis Foreman: Bax. A composer and his times, Aldershot/Brookfield, 1987, p. 207. 31 Arnold Bax to Philip Hale, 22.11.1922. 32 Josef Holbrooke: Contemporary British Composers, London 1925, p. 56. 33 Edwin Evans: The Bax Symphonies, in: The Listener XXIX/720, London 1942, p. 573. 34 Eric Blom: Arnold Bax - Symphony No. 2, in: The Music Teacher X/4, London 1931, p. 195. SYMPHONY NO. 3 35 Cf. Foreman, ibid., p. 242. 36 Bernard Shore: Sixteen Symphonies, London etc. 1949, p. 351. 37 Arnold Bax: Farewell, My Youth and other writings, edited by Lewis Foreman, Aldershot/Brookfield 1992, p. 10. 38 Robert Hull: A Handbook on Arnold Bax's Symphonies, London 1932, p. 33. 39 Burnett James: Unpublished Essay on Bax. Quoted from Lewis Foreman: Bax. A composer and his times, Aldershot/Brookfield, 1987, p. 243. 40 Bernard Shore: Sixteen symphonies. London etc. in 1949, p. 350. 41 Lewis Foreman: Bax. A composer and his times, Aldershot/Brookfield 1987, p. 245. 42 Gwilym Beechey: The Legacy of Bax, in: MO CVI/1271, Bournemouth 1983, p. 359. 43 The London Symphony, although in four movements, has an epilogue. The kinship between Bax and Vaughan Williams at that time confirms the assumption that Vaughan Williams became in some ways the model for Bax. 44 Ralph Vaughan Williams: Arnold Bax (1883-1953), in Vaughan Williams: National Music and other essays, Oxford etc. 1986, p. 243-244. 45 Harriet Cohen: A Bundle of Time, London 1969, p. 216. Later the quotation was deleted. 46 Geoffrey Self: The music of E. J. Moeran, London 1986, p. 140f. WINTER LEGENDS 47 Cohen, ibid., p. 182. 48 Cohen, ibid., p. 182. 49 Watson Lyle: A musician of the North (Arnold Bax), in: The Bookman LXXXI/485, London 1932, p. 268. SYMPHONY NO. 4 50 Julian Herbage: Sir Arnold Bax, b. 1883, in Alfred Louis Bacharach (ed.): British Music of Our Time. Harmondsworth/New York 1946, p. 123. 51 Anthony Payne: Problems of a Lyric Composer, in: M&M 13/5, London 1965, p. 17. 52 Lewis Foreman: Bax. A composer and his times, Aldershot/Brookfield, 1987, p. 268-271. 53 Robert Hull: Bax's Fourth Symphony, in: The Spectator, London 9. 12. 1932, p. 827. 54 Robert Hull: Arnold Bax: Shorter Orchestral Works, in: MM new series I/7, London 1933, p. 203., 55 William Walton to Hubert Foss, 5.12.1932. Quoted from Michael Kennedy: Portrait of Walton, Oxford etc. 1990, p. 70. SYMPHONY NO. 5 56 Harriet Cohen: A Bundle of Time, London 1969, p. 65. 57 Lewis Foreman: Bax, the Symphony and Sibelius, in: MO 93/1109, Luton 1970, p. 246. 58 Burnett James to Lewis Foreman. Lewis Foreman: Bax. A composer and his times, Aldershot/Brookfield, 1987, p. 281. 59 Robert Hull: Arnold Bax's Fifth Symphony, in: MMR LXIV/753, London 1934, p. 7; reprinted in: Bax Society Bulletin 4, London 1969, p. 61-62. 60 Lewis Foreman: Bax, the Symphony and Sibelius, in: MO 93/1109, Luton 1970, p. 245. 61 Cf. Lewis Foreman: Bax. A composer and his times, Aldershot/Brookfield 21987, p. 137.) 62 Cf. Gwilym Beechey: The Legacy of Bax, in: MO CVI/1271, Bournemouth 1983, p. 359. SYMPHONY NO. 6 63 David Cox: Arnold Bax (1883-1953), in Robert Simpson (ed.): The Symphony, Vol. II, Harmondsworth etc. 1967, p. 163. 64 Cox, ibid., p. 163. 65 David Cox: Arnold Bax (1883-1953), in Robert Simpson (ed.): The Symphony, Vol. II, Harmondsworth etc. 1967, p. 164. 66 Lewis Foreman: Bax. A composer and his times, Aldershot/Brookfield 21987, p. 278 and 301. 67 Foreman, ibid., p. 80. 68 Kaikhosru Sorabji: Music, in: NEW VIII, London 12. 12. 1935, p. 174. 69 Robert Hull: Arnold Bax's Sixth Symphony, in: MO 59/698, London 1935, p. 116. 70 Arnold Bax to Ralph Vaughan Williams, 1935. Quoted from Michael Kennedy: The Works of Vaughan Williams, Oxford etc. 1992, p. 248. 71 Lewis Foreman: Bax, the Symphony and Sibelius, in: MO 93/1109, Luton 1970, p. 246. SYMPHONY NO. 7 72 Lewis Foreman: Bax. A composer and his times. Aldershot/Brookfield 1987, p. 316. 73 Cf. Cox: Arnold Bax (1883-1953), in Robert Simpson (ed.): The Symphony, Vol. II, Harmondsworth etc. 1967, p. 164: 74 Foreman, ibid., p. 315-316. 75 Foreman, ibid., p. 315. 76 Foreman, ibid., p. 315. CONCLUSION 77 Despite several conversations with Herr Schlüren, the author cannot share Herr Schlüren's praise (review of Schaarwächter, Die britische Sinfonie 1914-1945, in: Fono Forum 6/97, Unterschleißheim 1997, p. 26.) for Bax's feeling for form. The Symphony No. 4 is particularly weak in this respect.