In Memoriam by Sir Arnold Bax (edited by Graham Parlett) Duration: 15 minutes
When Dublin’s Easter Rising of 1916 was put down and its leaders court-martialed and executed by the British army, the composer Arnold Bax (1883-1953) was deeply distraught. In 1902 he discovered the poetry of W. B. Yeats and fell under the spell of all things Irish. Bax continued to revere Ireland and its culture for the rest of his life. In artistic terms this infatuation resulted in his long-cherished dream of a Dublin residence in 1911 where he quickly became a contributor to the Irish cultural scene known as the Rathgar Circle, established around the poet, painter, and mystic George William Russell (AE). As a literary persona, Bax already had numerous poems and short stories published under the Irish pseudonym of Dermot O’Byrne. As a young composer who had already achieved international recognition, the soft melancholy moods of the Irish Literary Revival proved to be a major influence on his musical works of that period, which began to take on a undulating, mystical flow set to his own quite distinctive style of impressionistic orchestral techniques and textures. One evening his Irish friend, Molly Colum, showed up at Bax’s home with Patrick Henry Pearse, the intensely passionate barrister, writer, poet, educator, and advocate of Irish nationalism. After many hours of deep conversation in Pearse’s native Connemara tongue, they parted as instant comrades, but fate decreed that they would never meet again. Pearse’s execution for his leading role in the armed insurrection which began on Easter Monday, April 24, 1916 was a terrible shock to Arnold Bax and prompted the composer to write two pieces titled In Memoriam (the other being a piece for cor anglais, harp and string quartet), an unpublished song (with words by AE) titled “A Leader,” and a poem, “In Memoriam My Friend Patrick H. Pearse (Ruler of Ireland for one week),” which was part of a slim volume of verse published as A Dublin Ballad and Other Poems. Because of their pro-Republican sentiments, the British censor in Ireland promptly suppressed the poems.
A short score to the symphonic In Memoriam was completed four months after the Easter Rising, and for many years it was believed that Bax never got around to orchestrating the work. Given the fact that he was knighted in 1937 by King George VI and subsequently took over the prestigious position as Master of the King’s Music from the aging Sir Edward Elgar, it is easy to see why the piece was never performed in Bax’s lifetime due to the decidedly anti-British nature of its origin. In November of 1993 the fully orchestrated score was discovered in a music publisher’s basement, and the work was given its premiere in manuscript by the BBC Philharmonic under Vernon Handley on June 17, 1998, eighty-two years after its composition. Handley subsequently recorded the work with that orchestra on the Chandos label, and that recording can be sampled on YouTube. There were only two other performances of In Memoriam while it was in manuscript.
In 2013, while recovering from spine surgery and a heart attack, Richard Frazier became enchanted with the Handley recording, and his search for a score led him to the eminent Bax scholar, Graham Parlett, who informed him that the score and parts to the piece had never been published. Urged forward by their devotion to the music of Sir Arnold Bax, the two embarked on a project of creating an elegantly engraved performing edition published by Richard Frazier Music in cooperation with the Bax Society.
The score has been faithfully created from Bax’s original manuscript and is accompanied by two pages of editorial notes from Graham Parlett as well as historical background information, a bibliography, and full color illustrations. The spiral bound score is available in two sizes, a 10” x 14” conductor’s score, as well as an 8.5” x 11” study score.
The parts are printed on symphonic quality 9×12 inch paper. The instrumentation is 3 flutes (3rd doubling piccolo), 2 oboes, cor anglais, 2 clarinets in A, bass clarinet in Bb, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns in F, 2 trumpets in C, 2 tenor trombones, bass trombone, tuba, timpani, bass drum, side drum, suspended cymbal, harp, and strings (4/4/3/2/2). Extra parts may be purchased.
In Memoriam may be heard an YouTube at two locations
LISTEN (to hear In Memoriam, follow the above YouTube link.) | PDF
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