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"BAX AND ELGAR" a lecture by Ian Lace

THE SIR ARNOLD BAX WEB SITE

Last Modified May 7, 1997

The following text is taken from a lecture given by Ian Lace. Ian is a prominent music scholar and critic (he writes for the BBC Music Magazine, Fanfare, Classic CD and the British Music Society). I greatly appreciate his willingness to allow me to post the text of his lecture here. For groups and organizations interested in hearing Ian present this lecture in person, he should be contacted directly at 100742.155@CompuServe.COM (.) This presentation is complete with nearly 200 slides, musical excerpts and interviews with Vernon Handley and Robert Walker etc; The text quotes liberally from Bax's autobiography, Farewell, My Youth. This invaluable resource is available through Ashgate Publishing Ltd, Gower House, Croft Road, Aldershot, Hampshire, GU11 3HR United Kingdom. Tel: +44 (0) 1252 317700 Fax: +44 (0) 1252 343151.



Arnold Bax was, in his own words, a brazen romantic. He was a Peter Pan figure and a nomad. A man from a background of considerable financial resource, he never owned his own house. At various times he lived in a scruffy two room flat in Hampstead, in a spartan hotel room in Morar, Inverness-shire during bleak winter months and for the last thirteen years of his life, in a room above a pub in Storrington just a few miles away from Brinkwells where Elgar composed his Cello Concerto and the Chamber music.

Connections between Bax and Elgar spread in all directions. My sources are, (1) Lewis Foreman's Bax - A composer and his Times which must be regarded as definitive. (2) Scott-Sutherland's book which preceeded it, although rather technical, is nonetheless very valuable too. It has some intriguing insights. (3) Harriet Cohen's A Bundle of Time is very entertaining. In it she sketches many illuminating portraits of musicians and writers. (4)Farewell, My Youth is Bax's autobiography, written between 1940 and 1943. It covers his early years only. It is a very good read and it also includes telling portraits of leading musicians. Better Bax tell us his own story from Farewell, My Youth. I have edited some of his words for smoothness of presentation:

BAX & ELGAR

"I have been informed, in print, that I was born on an island in the middle of a bog lake in County Mayo. I was once sent a cutting from a Dublin paper proclaiming that Arnold Bax was a pseudonymn, adopted solely for musical purposes by a west of Ireland poet and novelist named Dermot O'Byrne. These fantasies are picturesque but unfortunately not true.

"I reaffirm that I was born uninterestingly - except to my mother and myself - at Streatham on November 8th 1883."

(In the July of that year Elgar became engaged to Helen Weaver and his Intermezzo - Serenade Mauresque was performed for the first time in Birmingham by Stockley on December 13th)

"I distinctly remember my first conscious apprehension of beauty. (Bax was nearly six). I was taken one September evening to the top of Arundel Park. It was the hour of sunset and as we stood there, an unimaginable glory of flame developed in the west so that all the wooded heights seemed on fire. Even the east was stained with pale coral. It might have been Ragnarok the burning of the Gods in Norse mythology. I watched speachlessly. The hour was immortal."

(Only a few miles away from this scene is Brinkwells - the Sussex cottage where Elgar composed his Cello Concerto and the later chamber music.)


"My earliest distant acquaintance with the orchestra came when I was taken for the first time to one of the Crystal Palace Saturday concerts. My father had been a subscriber since 1860 and had religiously attended every Saturday afternoon. He had kept every analytical programme from the beginning of his concert going career. I used to sit in vast and delicious awe of the conductor August Manns who always appeared in white kid gloves and a white rose or carnation in his buttonhole.

"In 1896 my parents moved to Hampstead and a far more interesting social milieu. There were literary clubs, book societies, annual exhibitions of paintings by Hampstead artists, and the Joachim Quartet at the town hall...

"It has always been a matter of deep regret to me that I was not brought up in the country but, failing that, Ivybank and its garden could be counted the next best thing. At the back of the house was a large lawn screened from westerly winds by a noble row of chestnut trees. Beyond these was a second green. Here, during the summers of our youth, Clifford and I, our friends and one or two gardeners and policemen, played cricket - to the peril of the adjoining greenhouses!

"With the coming of the Hampstead Tube Railway, in the first decade of the new century, there occured settlement in the foundations and outer walls of the house. Ceilings collapsed in the night. The place was becoming a public nuiscance when my father sold it in 1911.

"After being a student at the Hampstead Conservatoire which was ruled by the afterwards celebrated Cecil Sharpe, I entered the Royal Academy of Music, then in Tenterden Street, in September 1900. I found amongst my fellow students Eric Coates, Montague Philips, W.H. Reed, and York Bowen. Later on Myra Hess and Irene Scharrer arrived as very small and eternally giggling little girls. I remained at the R.A. M. for five years. My senses were drunk with Wagner and my nerves a-twitch to the titillating pervisities that Richard Strauss was obtruding for the first time into a fundamentally diatonic style. Wagner had made music the language of passion, and now Richard the second was turning the art into neurosis become vocal.

"Debussy did not reach England until the spring of 1905, my last year as a student. My A Celtic Song was produced at an Academy concert soon after the French composer's work was becoming known. One critic wrote: This young man should be sedulously kept at present from further study of Debussy. I had never heard of Debussy when I wrote these songs.

"In 1904 I had won the Charles Lucas Medal at the R.A.M. with a set of symphonic variations. Afterwards a letter from the Royal College of Music arrived charging me to present myself there to rehearse my work. Sir Hubert Parry was to be there; so after careful deliberation I decided to array myself in my seldom worn frock-coat and tall hat. The heat was intense during my journey and I arrived perspiring not a little. Sir Charles Stanford approached me at once and said, rather brusquely, 'So here you are. You are Bax aren't you? Well you can go up there and work your wicked will on the orchestra'

"My knees knocked together. I stammered in a very small voice "But I have never conducted in my life" 'Never mind that. You've got to begin sometime my boy. Go on with ye.'

"Overharrowing it would be to resuscitate in any detail the pity and terror of that scene. I would naturally conduct with my left hand and I probably did so then. But I really don't know. In all my life I have never consented to conduct again. The embarrasement, the horror I endured that sweltering afternoon! The orchestra players were stoically long suffering. Only once did a politely ironic voice query "Excuse me, but are you beating in twos or threes?" After some 45 minutes of mental and physical misery I stumbled off the platform. "Ye look warm young man", observed Stanford.

ELGAR AT BIRCHWOOD 1901

"Coming down to breakfast at Ivybank one autumn morning in 1898, I found my father seated at the table, his favourite Standard open between his small and beautiful hands and looking quite excited. 'You should read this, my boy,' he exclaimed before I could take my seat. 'A new English composer has turned up and the paper says that he is something like a genius!' He handed me the sheet, and I read a long and highly laudatory account of the first performance of Caractacus. This was my earliest introduction to the name of Elgar, for although he was already past forty and not unhonoured in his native Worcester, I do not think that his work was at all known to the public at large, or that much of it had yet been played in London. Eagerly I procured the vocal scores of Caractacus and King Olaf, and was soon one of the composer's most enslaved admirers. Two years later to this admiration was added reverence, for The Dream of Gerontius took utte! r possession of what religious sense I have.

"In Malvern lived an Academy friend of mine, one George Alder, a horn-player, a wag of no mean order, and well acquainted since boyhood with Elgar. I saw much of him during August 1901, and one day he perturbed and delighted me with the proposal that we should walk over to Birchwood, the woodland cottage where Gerontius had been scored and where the composer was still living, and pay him a visit. As we approached the unpretentious but charming cottage I almost regretted my temerity in coming. My tongue and throat were dry and my heart a-flutter with nervousness, which was part allayed and part aggravated when we were told by a maid that Mr Elgar was at present out somewhere in the woods. But he would be back at tea-time or soon after, and meanwhile would we sit in the garden where the mistress would join us at once. The composer's wife, a pleasant-looking fair-haired lady, with - it struck me - rather an anxious manner, welcomed us very kindly in her gentle, slightly h! esit ant voice. Almost at once she began to speak enthusiastically and a little extravagantly about her wonderful husband and his work. She was speaking of her Edward's early struggles for recognition when I became aware of the footsteps behind me. 'Oh, here he is!' cried Mrs Elgar, and I rose and turned with suddenly thudding heart to be introduced to the great man. Hatless, dressed in rough tweeds and riding boots, his appearance was rather that of a retired army officer turned gentleman farmer than an eminent and almost morbidly highly strung artist. One almost expected him to sling a gun from his back and drop a brace of pheasants to the ground.

"Refusing tea and sinking to a chair he lay back, his thin legs sprawling straight out before him, whilst he filled and lit a huge briar, his rather closely set eyes meanwhile blinking absently at us. He was not a big man, but such was the dominance of his personality that I always had the impression that he was twice as large as life. That afternoon he was very pleasant and even communicative in his rumbling voice, yet there was ever a faint sense of detachment, a hint - very slight - of hauteur and reserve. He was still sore over the Gerontius fiasco at Birmingham in the previous autumn, and enlarged interestingly upon the subject. 'The fact is,' he cried, 'neither the choir nor Richter knew the score.' 'But I thought the critics said...' I started to interpose. 'Critics!' snapped the composer with ferocity. 'My dear boy, what do the critics know about anything?'

"Now I have always been curious about other people's workaday methods, how long it takes them to get through a job and such-like matters, and so Elgar was asked what number of pages of full score represented his weekly average whilst he was working on Gerontius. 'Oh! about forty, I suppose,' he replied carelessly. Having at the time no experience whatever of the Egyptian labour that is orchestration, this quantum seemed to be surprisingly small; but now, after all these weary years at the grindstone, I realize that he might have spoken more boastfully. Particularly, if he meant that he completed his pages in all that scrupulous detail which so admirable characterized everything he wrote.

"Knocking out his pipe, he suggested that we might like to have a glance at a huge kite that he had recently constructed. We duly appreciated the lines of his mighty toy, though as there was no wind its excellencies could not be practically demonstrated, and we were then led into a small wood adjoining the garden where we found Elgar's little daughter sitting on a swing. 'Showing rather more leg than I care about, young woman!' remarked her father crisply. Thus admonished, the child dutifully slipped to the ground and I paused to say a few words to her whilst the composer passed on with Alder. The latter told me as we were returning to Malvern that during my short absence Elgar had asked him what were my musical ambitions. On being told that I intended to devote myself to composition, Elgar had made no comment beyond a grimly muttered, God help him!'

"As a personal contact, my youthful experiences of him at Birchwood proved for me the best of Elgar. A shy captious man, he suffered neither fools nor anyone else with consistent gladness. His manner to others was a matter of mood, as many found to their disconcerted embarrassment. The next occasion on which I was to meet him was at the solitary festival of the short-lived Musical League held in Liverpool in 1909. He was there, in high spirits and his most genial temper. To my pleasure and surprise he called out on seeing me, 'I do not need to be introduced to Mr. Bax again.' Later at dinner he startled me by shouting up the table, 'Mr. Bax! was it you who told me the story of the two-and-ninepenny crab? whatever that recondite-sounding jape may have been.

"In the following year I was invited for the first time to send in a work for performance at a Queen's Hall Promenade Concert, and when I went to Sir Henry Wood for a preliminary run through he told me (to my intense pride) that it was none other than Elgar who had recommended him to take up my work. It seems that he never forgot my visit to Birchwood (I think his days there counted as the happiest in his tormented life, and he kept a special regard for anyone who had seen him in those surroundings).

"The last time I saw him was on his birthday in 1933. That evening Toscanini had given an ever-memorable performance of the Enigma Variations, and Harriet Cohen and I, with one or two others, repaired to the Savoy Grill after the concert for supper. There we discovered Elgar, characteristically surrounded by actors, Norman Forbes and Allan Aynesworth amongst them. Harriet, of whom Elgar was really very fond, rushed up to him and began vivaciously and charmingly to congratulate him upon the anniversary and the evening's wonderful music. With - as I thought - rather ridiculous affectation and ungraciousness, the old composer turned to his actor-friends and spreading out his hand in mock mystification, exclaimed, 'What on Earth are these people talking about?'

Mind you, Bax could give as well as he took. He was well known for his witty comments about his fellow musicians as Lady Susana Walton remembers in her book "Behind the Facade". She relates that "Walter Legge admired William's music and that a friendly rival, Arnold Bax, used to say: 'It was enough for Walton to fart for Legge to record it'"

Dresden 1906-7 attending Richard Strauss's Salome:

"Marie Wittich sang Salome gloriously. But she was long past her first youth and her charms were somewhat generous. She scarcely suggested the lithe and catlike Jewish dancing girl. I was told that at the final rehearsal she had attempted the Dance of the Seven Veils herself, and that Strauss, sitting in the stalls, was so appalled by the spectacle that he covered his eyes with his hands. He subsequently tactfully suggested that the double role was too cruel a physical strain upon the singer. It was arranged that her place for the episode be taken by a professional dancer who shortly before her cue was smuggled crouching through the stage crowd to a position behind the cistern in which Jochanaan was incarcerated. From here she ran on to take Frau Wittich's place before the footlights whilst the panting singer took cover in her stead. (The effect was somewhat bizarre for it would seem that Salome's complicted sexual inhibitions had, in a moment, caused her to loose several stones in weight)

"Symphony concerts also took place in the Opera House. One programme included movements of Mahler's Sixth Symphony.I was introduced for the first time to the work of this eccentric, long-winded, muddle-headed yet always interesting composer. The restless perversity of the very individual orchestration excited me tremendously.

W.B. Yeats, Ireland and the Celtish influence

"Yeats was the key that opened the gate of the Celtic wonderland to my wide-eyed youth, and his finger pointed to the magic mountain whence I was to dig all that may be of value in my own art.

"I came upon Yeats's "The Wanderings of Usheen" in 1902 and in a moment the Celt in me stood revealed. It has been said:The Celt has ever worn himself out in mistaking dreams for reality, but I believe on the contrary that the Celt knows more clearly than the men of most races the difference between the two and deliberately chooses to follow the dream. There is certainly a tireless hunter of dreams in my own make-up.

"I went to Ireland as a boy of nineteen in great spiritual excitement, and once there my existence was at first so utterly unrelated to material actualities that I find it difficult to remember it in any clarity.

"I do not think I saw men and women passing me on the the roads as real figures of flesh and blood: I looked through them back to their archetypes, and even Dublin itself seemed peopled by gods and heroic shapes from the dim past.

"I spent most of my time in the west, always seeking out the most remote places I could find on the map, lost corners of mountains, shores unvisited by any tourist and by few even of the Irish themselves.

"I spent more and more time alone in places lorded by the Atlantic and the dream light of old tradition. It was all no doubt very young and extravagant but at times I know the mood and those dreams even now. Under this domination my musical style became strengthened and purged of many alien elements. In part at least I rid myself of the sway of Wagner and Strauss and began to write Irishly, using figures and melodies of a definitely Celtic curve. I would like to point out though that only once in my career as a composer have I made use of an actual folk-song.

Glencolmcille

Glencolmcille is isolated in Donegal in the North West corner of Ireland. A small remote community, with nearby cliffs that must rank amongst the highest in the world.

"In winter I would often linger at my window, too fascinated in watching the implaccable fury of the Atlantic in a south-westerly storm to sit down to work. The savagery of the sea at times was nearly incredible. I have seen a continuous volume of foam sucked, as in a funnel, up the whole six-hundred-foot face of Glen Head.... One evening I saw over Glen Head the most astonishing and beautiful aurora borealis imaginable. Swords and spears of red and gold poured down the northern sky, with fan like openings and closings of the heavens.

Russia

Bax fell under the spell of a young Russian girl.
"I first met Loubya Nicolyevna Korolenko at a friend's house in Swiss Cottage in 1909. Emotionally I was floundering in very deep and turgid waters. and even to others signs of this were evident. Yes, I loved her - she appealed to my imagination as a fair unfortunate heroine of some slavonic fairy tale. "I know now that she had not the slightest insight into my true nature. Secretly I am sure she despised my romantisicm as boyish and sentimental and mocked at my idealization of her ashen coloured soul."

Bax pursued her to her home in the Ukraine via St Petersburg.During an extended visit to Russia he absorbed much of the country's music. However the girl was not so keen on him and she quickly abandoned him and married another suitor in front of his eyes. Bax was mortified.

The Choral Work Enchanted Summer dating from 1909/10 marks the peak of Bax's early development. It was written against the love affair that had taken him to Russia. Enchanted Summer is set to words from Shelley's Prometheus Unbound. The opening music suggests the "profound depths of the great summer woodland and of the elfin and unhuman inmates of this Arcadian world"

Shortly after the unfortunate affair in Russia and the completion of Enchanted Summer, Bax married Elsita Sobrino the daughter of a Spanish concert pianist and professor of piano at the Guildhall School of Music.


Marriage and Life in Dublin

"By 1911 I was married and at last was able to realize a long-cherished dream of actually setting up house in Ireland. For two winters I rented a furnished villa in Rathgar. From the back windows there was a clear vista of parklike wooded country and beyond that of the complete ring of the untamed Dublin Mountains."

Bax's brother Clifford was himself an accomplished poet and playwright. He took Arnold round to meet George Russell (AE). In Russell's studio he met many writers and artists including Padraic Colum, James Stephens and Ernest Boyd.

"By degrees a second personality came to birth within me that was Dermot O'Byrne who later on was to turn author and find his books accepted by Dublin publishers.

"I had begun to write short stories - always on Irish subjects - in 1909 and two of these Clifford had printed in one of a series of booklets in association with his art magazine Orpheus. By degrees I accumulated more than enough material for several books.

"These collections found favour with many of my Dublin friends. "Arnold, you have a completely Gaelicised mind", said George Russell once to my pride and delight."

But turbulence was around the corner. First in the shape of:

Harriet Cohen

According to Harriet Cohen they had met at a picnic party in the Dublin Mountains in the Spring of 1912. She was then a piano student at the Royal Academy of Music. They met again at a Balfour Gardiner Concert when Bax's Christmas Eve or Christmas Eve on the Mountains as it was known then was performed.

"I became aware of a small dryad face beneath a cloud of jet black hair and a pair of bright eyes brimming with mischief peering at me..." And later as he nervously awaits the orchestra to begin playing his music ..."Out of the corner of my eye I noticed that black haired student...Turning my head I found that her eyes were trying to catch mine. That accomplished, she smiled gaily and gave a little wiggle of enthusiasm...how beautiful she was! The flame of her beauty burnt through me, stinging my overwrought nerves and making the great mass of lights in the ceiling swing backwards and forwards alarmingly."

Then there were the Troubles in Ireland


Arnold Bax also began to meet with Irish revolutionary figures including Padraig Pearse.

"Scarcely had Pearse shaken hands shyly than he sat down by the fire and stared into the blaze as though absorbed in a private dream but his eyes were lit with the unwavering flame of the fanatic. Somebody said, "Pearse wants to die for Ireland you know". Indeed he did not have much longer to wait before his desire was granted. As he was leaving he said to his host "I think your friend Arnold Bax may be one of us. I should like to see more of him."

Bax left Ireland not long before the outbreak of the Great War not to return for over four years. Bax, always the dreamer never the realist, was absent during the upheavals in Ireland and he was excused war service in the Great war on medical grounds.

But - "I could not forget the impression that strange death-aspiring dreamer (Padraig Pearse) made upon me when on Easter Tuesday 1916 I read by Windermere's shore of that wild scatter-brained but burningly idealist adventure in Dublin the day before I murmured to myself, "I know that Pearse is in this".

As we have seen, Bax was influenced as much by forests and woodlands and their mythology as by the sea. But the turbulence in his Tone Poem November Woods, written in October 1916, also reflects his passion for Harriet Cohen. They would meet clandestinely in a small pub in Amersham. The inspiration were the woods nearby where he once sheltered from a storm.

His poem Amersham sets the scene:

.....Storm, a mad painter's brush, swept sky and land
With burning signs of beauty and despair
And once rain scourged through shrivelling wood and brake
And in our hearts tears stung and the old ache
Was more than any God would have us bear.


Then in a drowsy town the inn of dreams
Shuts out awhile October's sky of dread
Drugged in the wood reek, under the black beams
Nestled against my arm her little head


Soon after Bax left his wife in 1918, he composed his First String Quartet which he dedicated to Elgar. When Bax forwarded the score to Elgar, Elgar wrote that he liked the look of it but he never went to hear it. For a time, between the wars, it became the modern quartet most frequently performed in the UK. The first movement is genial and tuneful and reminds one of Dvorak. The second movement carries a quotation from Elgar's Violin Concerto.

In the same year, 1918, Elgar was at Brinkwells composing his string quartet. The following year came Elgar's Piano Quintet. Harriet Cohen and the Stratton String Quartet made a recording of it in 1933. Harriet remembered: "Sir Edward was taken seriously ill early in October but I think no one outside the family, except his beloved friend Willie Reed knew just how grave this illness was. Dr Young tells us that Reed and Carice engineered a conspiracy of silence so that her father might be allowed to live his remaining days in some peace of mind. Mr Gaisberg wrote to me: "Sir Edward listened to the Quintet in his nursing home yesterday and was delighted." That was the first I knew of his illness - I burst into tears. Then came a card from his daughter saying he was able to listen to a portion of the records. He had managed to write on top of the card: "You played splendidly EE!""

In the Centennary year of 1983 Harriet Cohen came in for a lot of disparagement. Perhaps we can now observe her a little more objectively. Yes, she has been accused of being jealous and possesssive. And as Lewis Foreman pointed out, to judge her as a concert pianist per se is very difficult for those who did not hear her in her prime; little of her art exists on disc. Her limitations had partly to do with the technical problems arising from her inability to stretch more than an octave with either hand. And some of Bax's most important works eg. The Symphonic Variations and Winter Legends really needed more facility than she was capable of.

Nonetheless She was a most glorious looking woman when she was young and many loved and revered her. Known to her intimates as Tania - the name Bax gave her - she had an infectious enthusiasm for causes and people. She introduced Bax to many literary and political figures as well as to other musicians. She was widely respected as a champion of British music and was held in high esteem by Kodaly, Janacek, Bartok and Sibelius as well as British composers including Vaughan Williams, John Ireland and - of course Elgar.

In any case it was not as if she did irreparable harm to Bax's music. As Colin Scott Sutherland pointed out:

"Bax was drawn by a curious strength of interpretive power in her playing of his music - and by her realization of that cold ferocity which rose so often to the surface in his work. The vital energies and sustained mental and physical effort needed for the granite music of Winter Legends was counterbalanced in Harriet (though in different proportions than in Bax) by a wayward and capricious element in her nature - that feminine sensitivity which informed her playing and understanding of Bax's piano music."

In 1917 both Bax and Elgar were approached by Mrs Christopher Lowther for ballet scores. From Elgar she obtained The Sanguine Fan and from Bax From Dusk Until Dawn. The ballet was produced in December with Mrs Lowther dancing the lead. The stories of both ballets are fantasies, From Dusk till Dawn tells the story of some china figures that come to life one summer night.

Bax himself made a famous recording with Lionel Tertis in 1929 of his own lushly romantic Sonata for Viola and Piano, written in 1922. It will be remembered that Tertis transcribed Elgar's cello concerto for the viola.

When I asked Vernon Handley what was his favorite Bax work, he selected the 6th Symphony. Colin Scott-Sutherland, in a letter to me recently, echoed Vernon Handley's choice of the Sixth Symphony. Bax's symphonies like those of Neilsen, are linked - a progressive saga. The opening theme of the first symphony leads onwards through twenty movements to the ultimate vision of the close of the Sixth Symphony.

This is Peter Pirie's perceptive note from the 1967 Lyrita recording:

"Conflict lies at the heart of Bax's seven symphonies. The first Symphony (1921/2) reflected a psychic upheaval that must have shaken him to the foundations. He has denied that it was the First World War and we must take it for granted that there was no conscious influence but the Easter Rising was another matter. The execution of his friend Padraig Pearse rocked Bax on his heels. Great and subtle beauty, bleak austerity and sheer violence existed side by side in his musical nature and they never learned to lie easily together.

"His First Symphony is a short grim outburst, his Second broods over its implications with occasional eruptive violence; peace fitfully comes to the Third. This conflict is devastating. The sound of it is like great winged things tearing each other in flight. It is obvious that Bax was deeply impressed by the Demon's Chorus from his much admired Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius. The Fourth Symphony suspends the conflict for a moment in boisterous good humour, the legendery Fifth brings to the fore, in its finale, a kind of theme that Bax himself called "liturgical" which is heard over a dance of pagan abandon. The seeds of further conflict are thus sown. The calm, serene Seventh forms a kind of Epilogue to the whole sequence. But in between the Sixth bursts in fury.

"The Sixth Symphony of 1934, the year of Elgar's death, was written mainly in Morar in Inverness-shire. Those who know the north-west coast of Scotland will find the Sixth Symphony one of music's most uncanny psychic equivalents; this music is redolent of that wild beauty.

It is not out of the question that Bax, like Walton, in his First Symphony and Vaughan Williams in his Fourth was troubled by a sense of the passing of worlds.

One could view the central movements of Elgar's Second Symphony in a similar light. And surely the glorious ending of that Symphony is echoed in the closing pages of Bax's Sixth.

Nothing Bax wrote afterwards reached this peak. He spent the last thirteen years of his life living in a room above a pub, The White Horse, in Storrington, Sussex and it was here that he learnt that he had been appointed Master of the King's Music a post which Elgar had held from 1924 until his death Bax died in Ireland - in October 1953 - shortly before his seventieth birthday. He had gone to examine the work of young musicians in Dublin and Cork.

In listening to the finale of the Sixth Symphony, despite its associations with Morar, I am reminded of another passage from Farewell, My Youth:

"I like to fancy that on my deathbed my last vision in this life will be the scene from my window on the upper floor at Glencolmcille, of the still brooding dove grey mystery of the Atlantic at twilight."


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