A Little Bax Story

Posted: 8 June by Josh Beadon

The Devon Wildlife Trust fund-raising concert on the 16th July will see us play a diverse repertoire of well-known works written by composers who will be familiar to many - except perhaps for the name Arnold Bax.

Arnold Edward Trevor Bax was born in Streatham, London in 1883 to a well-to-do family who encouraged him to pursue a career in music. He studied at the Royal Academy of Music – he was a fine pianist – and it was whilst at college he developed a life-long interest in Celtic culture. He learnt Irish Gaelic and wrote poems in the language, his passion even driving him to give his two children Irish names - Dermot and Maeve!

He was an unconventional figure in many respects. He was wealthy, so didn’t need to teach or work, and his music was entirely his own, with little reference to the fashion for the revival of English folk melodies, so popular with many of his contemporaries. Instead he drew inspiration from Celtic legends, Nordic stories and tales of woodland idylls and Faeries.

His music output was considerable – choral works, oratorio’s, works for voice, smaller scale piano pieces as well a numerous orchestral works - notably seven symphonies. Tintagel is his best known orchestral work, a tone-poem that melds the magic of the North Coast of Cornwall - the gale-tossed glittering Atlantic – with the Tristan legend –the passion of the two lovers - in music of sweeping drive and lyrical urgency.

Arnold Bax was awarded a knighthood in 1937 and appointed ‘Master of King’s Musick’ which is perhaps curious for one so seemingly at odds with the establishment of the time.

He died, quite suddenly of heart failure whilst staying in Cork, in his beloved Ireland in October 1953 aged 70 years.

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