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Clarinet Sonata


The Clarinet Sonata, completed in June 1934, is a serenade-like score and, so far as is known, was not informed by any non-musical imperative. It was written for Hugh Prew, a fellow-cricketer with Bax in his brother Clifford’s ‘Old Broughtonians’ team who played village cricket over the west country in the 1920s. At its first performance in June 1935 it was played by the celebrated clarinetist Frederick Thurston, whose distinctive playing influenced a decade of fine works for clarinet of which John Ireland’s Fantasy Sonata is probably the best-known.

Bax’s Sonata is in two movements and is largely lyrical in intent, the piano always playing a significant role. Two subject groups, each consisting of a theme and a subsidiary ‘tail’, are introduced, the first returning to round out the exposition. Both are elegiac, the first heart-on-sleeve, the second more introspective because more chromatic. Development and recapitulation merge almost indistinguishably, the latter extensively elaborated before the opening theme returns to round out the movement in twilight mood, all pink dusk and sunset shadows. The shorter second movement opens in contrasted moto perpetuo style with a brilliant scherzando theme and associated passage-work, later contrasted with a yearning lyrical melody, before this delicious score ends with the return of the theme of the opening and dies away to a quiet, contented close.

from notes by Lewis Foreman © 1995


Bax: Nonet & other chamber music
CDA66807Archive Service


Movement 1: Molto moderato
Track 7 on CDA66807 [8'54] Archive Service
Movement 2: Vivace – Pochettino meno posso (Lento)
Track 8 on CDA66807 [5'00] Archive Service

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