Arnold Bax

Symphony No. 3

    Description by Tim Mahon

    The Third Symphony, dedicated to the great Henry Wood, has been one of the more frequently played of Bax's major orchestral works since his death and forms a climax for the trilogy of pieces in which he tried to find his symphonic form. In this it is probably more celebrated in intent than in achievement, since his continuing search for structural perfection can also be seen in the pieces which followed -- Winter Legends and the Fourth Symphony. It is a powerful piece for all that.

    It is developed primarily from the lessons he learned in the creation of the first two symphonies and the Overture, Elegy and Rondo which immediately preceded the Third. Written during the winter of 1928-29 in Morar, Scotland (the first winter he spent away from London entirely on his own), it is primarily an exercise in orchestral color, though some of the rhythmic qualities of the first movement in particular recall Beethoven's Seventh, which Bax admired greatly. It is also noticeably more chromatic than anything that had gone before, particularly in the first movement.

    Struggling to find the perfect form for his symphonic output, Bax consulted Vaughan Williams on aspects of construction of the first movement. Interestingly, his colleague later used a theme from the close of this symphony in his own piano concerto. The most noteworthy feature of the Third is the composer's first use of an Epilogue as a closing statement, a feature that would come to be typical of all the symphonies which follow. In this case the Epilogue is a beautifully crafted reflection on the sea-related inspiration of the whole piece.

    Parts/Movements

    1. 1. Lento moderato
    2. 2. Lento
    3. 3. Moderato

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2003 Chandos 10122
    2001 Dutton Laboratories CDLX7111
    1992 Chandos 8454
    1992 Chandos 8906/10
    Naxos 8 553608