Sir Arnold Bax is best remembered today as a composer of evocative and descriptive tone poems. Born in London, his music does not sound typically British, but rather universal in scope. Because of his love for Ireland, there are works that reflect a Celtic influence. Any direct references are subtle, merely drawing inspiration from nature or a piece of folklore. Primal and dramatic, the style is Neo-Romantic with impressionistic strains. Bax was a very prolific composer who wrote concertos, symphonic tone poems, chamber music, symphonies, vocal and choral music, and film scores. His best-known piece is the symphonic poem Tintagel (1917-19), but many more deserve a wider audience.
In the Night, a passacaglia (a sort of continuous variation dating back to the Baroque period), did not receive its premiere until a 1986 recording by pianist Martin Roscoe. It is another of the beautifully descriptive character pieces Bax had mastered so well. The solitude of the evening and the seductive build to the climax are irresistible. Bax explores the outer reaches of his harmonic language without dissolving into atonality. One is reminded of the hyper-Romanticism of early Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) as in his sumptuous string sextet Verklarte Nacht (1899).