Discovering Arnold Bax

On my flight to Thailand in December, the in-flight entertainment console at my seat was playing as background music a piece by English composer Arnold Bax. I hadn’t heard of Bax before, and as I sat there browsing the Action & Adventure category of movie selections, I stopped to take note of the piece’s harmonic language and use of orchestral color. It was exactly the kind of early 20th century writing that I’ve come to love and obsessively seek out. (Not the atonal writing of Schoenberg and co., as should be obvious, but the fusion of Romanticism and Impressionism that labored on in the attic of the classical household through the mid-century.)

Obligatory black and white headshot.
Obligatory black and white headshot.

The piece was Bax’s Morning Song, a short, 8-minute fantasy for piano and orchestra (its resemblance to a piano concerto deepened my initial curiosity). It features a playful opening melody that dances along throughout the piece with treatment from various voices.

I look forward to exploring and discovering more of Bax’s music. His life spans a period of time that is nearly coincident with Rachmaninoff’s — they lived to about the same age and were separated by about ten years. So far, I’ve found no evidence to believe that they knew of each other, but they seem to draw from many of the same influences.

More on this fellow at a later time.