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This was the first of three memorial works that Bax wrote in 1916 in the aftermath of the Rising. The others were the Irish Elegy for cor anglais, harp and string quartet and In Memoriam Padraig Pearse, an evocative orchestral tone poem. The Trio is undoubtedly imbued with Bax’s shocked reaction to the news from Ireland, though he gives us no clue as to its imagery, not even a dedication. He does not indulge in extravagant breast-beating, but rather dreams a dream of times long past, the flute and viola singing to the bard-like playing of the harpist.
The Trio, though playing continuously, falls into two parts. By far the longer is the first, in which the viola and the flute sing against arpeggiated harp accompaniment, characterized by such markings as ‘sweet and expressive’. It includes several big statements given to the viola or flute and viola together. Of particular note is a spectral pianissimo episode launched by trilling flute and viola as the background to the harpist’s left hand playing harmonics in unison with the theme in the right. In the much slower closing section, almost foreshadowing the epilogues of some of the symphonies, the viola and the right hand of the harp sing a noble elegy accompanied by flute patterning and roulades and harp arpeggios.
from notes by Lewis Foreman © 1995