Obscure Music Monday: Bax's Elegiac Trio
Sir Arnold Edward Trevor Bax (Nov. 8, 1883 - Oct. 3, 1953) was an English poet, author, and composer. His output was prolific, and spanned several genres, from choral works to chamber pieces to orchestral music. His music was for a while neglected, and then revived, though predominantly as recordings; we still don't see his work programmed very often in concert halls.
Bax was born in London to a wealthy family, and was encouraged by his parents to pursue music. After preparatory school, he attended the Hampstead Conservatoire. He moved on to study at the Royal Academy of Music, and while there became an admirer of the music of Richard Wagner, Richard Strauss, and Claude Debussy (the latter two were frowned upon by the faculty). Bax became highly interested in Ireland and Celtic culture, and lived in Dublin for a time, and later on became fascinated with Nordic culture. Later on Bax would travel to Russia, which influenced some of his works.
Bax's works spanned many genres, including chamber music. Written in 1916, his Elegiac Trio, for flute, viola, and harp, was meant to be a memorial to friends he lost in the Easter Uprising in Dublin, Ireland. Many memorial works have a dark and more somber tone, but this work is dreamy and airy. The harp opens with some beautiful arpeggios, and the viola follows with a line that the flute also repeats. Bax creates some wonderful tone colors with these three instruments, and the writing is positively lush at times. The music indicates that it's supposed to be "smooth and flowing," which you can hear throughout, even when things get a bit more dramatic and busy. Written six months after Debussy's Trio for Flute, Viola, and Harp, but bearing no resemblance to it, it's another great addition to the repertoire of that instrumentation!
Here are some recordings of this lovely work for you to enjoy!