Sir Arnold Bax (1883-1953)

Born November 8, 1883 in Streatham (South London), England.
Died October 3, 1953 in Cork, Ireland.

Arnold Bax in the mid 1920s

Dance in the Sunlight from Three Pieces for Small Orchestra

Composed in 1928.
Instrumentation: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, timpani, percussion, harp and strings
Duration: ~5 minutes.

Sir Arnold Edward Trevor Bax, KCVO, was born to an financially secure family in London. He studied piano and composition at the Royal Academy of Music, but abandoned his studies in 1905.

In 1902, Bax read W. B. Yeats’ The Wanderings of Usheen (Oisin) which had a profound effect on the young composer declaring “The Celt within me stood revealed.” He travelled to Ireland, studied its history, and learned to read Irish Gaelic. He visiting Ireland frequently and wrote a large number of poems, plays, and novels under the Irish pseudonym Dermot O’Bryne.

Initially Bax was influenced by Wagner, but later discovered that Debussy, Ravel, Delius, and Strauss were more in accord with his own aesthetic outlook. He described himself as “a brazen romantic,” and is considered one of the last of the post-Romantic composers, rejecting new 20th century techniques such as serialism. Upon hearing Schoenberg’s music he wrote “It might deal successfully with neuroses of various kinds, but I cannot imagine it associated with any healthy and happy concept such as young love or the coming of spring.” 

Bax received little public recognition until the late 1930s when Sir Adrian Boult, conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, championed his music. Bax was Knighted in 1937, and was made Master of the King’s Music in 1942 Tintagel (a castle on a cliff in Cornwall) is his best known work. He wrote seven Symphonies as well as the tone poems The Garden of Fand (1916) (legendary Irish sea goddess) and November Woods (1917).

The Four Pieces for Orchestra were written in 1912-1913. Bax removed the final piece, hence the current title. These remaining three pieces are Evening Piece, Irish Landscape, and Dance in the Sunlight, an infectiously cheery piece that bubbles with rhythmic vitality, underpinning a happy theme first announced in the clarinet that balances lilting romanticism with impressionistic colors.


The Wanderings of Usheen


November Woods