Although Arnold Bax’s main reputation resides in his instrumental music, notably in the cycle of large-scale symphonies he wrote between 1921 and 1939, his a cappella works have a fecundity which places them at the very summit of unaccompanied English choral music of the twentieth century. His fascination with the colour and symbolism of medieval religious poetry began with his masterpiece, Mater ora filium
, a set of choral variations, composed in 1921, which set a structural precedent for the two works that followed, This worldes joie
(1922) and I sing of a maiden that is makeless
(c1923) for both explore elaborate processes of strophic variation. A decidedly gloomy essay, This worldes joie
is characterized by its sighing chromatic lines announced in the first verse (‘When it cometh in my thought, Of this world’s joy’), but the sense of desolation gains in intensity with the introduction of an ostinato in the third verse (‘All goeth bote Godes will’) which accompanies the opening theme in augmentation. The motet was dedicated to William Gillies Whittaker, who certainly performed the work with his renowned Newcastle Bach Choir, though the first performance was given by Charles Kennedy Scott and the Philharmonic Choir at Queen’s Hall on 5 June 1924.
from notes by Jeremy Dibble © 2017