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In memoriam


Arnold Bax, although born in the London suburb of Streatham, conceived a passionate interest in, and love for, Ireland. The whole of Ireland at that date was governed by Britain. There was a powerful nationalist element in the country that demanded Home Rule. Bax was enslaved by Irish literature and poetry and lived there for a time. He returned to England in 1914, when the Great War began. He was deeply shocked by the Easter Rising of April 1916 and by the execution of some of its leaders, several of whom he knew. A book of poems that he published under the pseudonym Dermot O’Byrne was banned by the British censor in Ireland. A strange prelude to his future as Master of the King’s Music (from 1942 until his death in 1953).

In memoriam (originally and aptly called by the composer An Irish Elegy) was initially written as a sextet for string quartet, cor anglais and harp—instrumentation that shows Bax’s skill in evoking the special melancholic tone-quality of the cor anglais combined with the sound of the harp. This is the version in which the work received its first private performance, at the Plough Club in London, on 10 March 1918, followed by a public premiere the following February. For many years it was thought that Bax had not orchestrated it. The manuscript short-score is dated 9 August 1916, but the full orchestration was not completed until later that year, after he finished The Garden of Fand (an Irish heroine).

A short introduction, with the oboe prominent, merges into a broad melody that Bax used again later in his music for David Lean’s film Oliver Twist (1948) in a scene for Mr Brownlow. The oboe launches an extended development section containing march rhythms, bugle calls and side-drum rhythms, culminating in a remarkable passage for stopped horns and a solo violin. The coda finds a different melodic way of expressing a deep but non-sentimental grief.

from notes by Michael Kennedy © 2014


Elgar & Bax: For the fallen
Studio Master: CDHLL7544Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available

Track-specific metadata for CDHLL7544 track 8

Recording date
6 November 2014
Recording venue
Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Steve Portnoi
Recording engineer
Steve Portnoi & Niall Gault
Hyperion usage
  1. Elgar & Bax: For the fallen (CDHLL7544)
    Disc 1 Track 8
    Release date: February 2017
    Download only
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