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Track(s) taken from CDA66807

Elegiac Trio


The Nash Ensemble
Recording details: June 1995
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Antony Howell & Julian Millard
Release date: February 1996
Total duration: 9 minutes 32 seconds

Cover artwork: Pastures at Malahide by Nathaniel Hone the Younger (1831-1917)
The National Gallery of Ireland


'How marvellous it is after all these years to be able to welcome a truly first-rate modern recording of Bax's Nonet. What a bewitching creation it is … This treasurable Hyperion release will certainly figure in my 'Critics' Choice' list at the end of the year … Music-making of exquisite poise and remarkable perception' (Gramophone)

'This collection serves Bax admirably and contains some real discoveries' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Performances of exemplary quality' (The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs)

'Lovers of Bax's lushly romantic, turbulently Celtic symphonies and tone poems will find much that is alluring in this selection … Moments of sweeping rhapsody abound throughout the disc. Seriously smitten Baxians will be thrilled by this new CD' (Classic CD)

'C'est ici la quintessence de la magie baxienne' (Diapason, France)
Although dated ‘April–May 1916’, it was nearly a year before the Trio was performed, when it was given at London’s Aeolian Hall by Albert Fransella (flute), the composer H Waldo Warner (viola) and Miriam Timothy (harp) on 26 March 1917. This was only seven-and-a-half weeks after the same group had given the British premiere of Debussy’s late Sonata for the same unusual forces. The chronology of this work and the Debussy is interesting. Although to all intents and purposes Bax appears to be influenced by the Debussy, a comparison which must have been very striking to its first audience, it is unlikely that Bax could have known of the French score so soon.

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

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