Arnold Bax

Water Music, for piano

    Description by Chris Morrison

    Inspired by several performances by the Russian ballet he saw in London in 1911, Bax went to work that same year on his own full-length ballet, tentatively called "Tamara." He eventually completed 30 numbers in short score, the longest work he ever wrote. After some attempts to promote the ballet and get it performed, Bax's efforts were derailed by the appearance of Mily Balakirev's ballet of the same name (and similar plot). Bax changed his ballet's name to King Kojata, but his ambitions for the work had been foiled. While he never orchestrated or otherwise completed the ballet, Bax did borrow from it for several other compositions. A couple of segments went into another ballet, 1920's The Truth About the Russian Dancers. One of these segments became the latter's "Dance of Motherhood," which was published in 1929 as the solo piano work Water Music.

    A repeating theme in Bax's music is the evocation of water -- think of the orchestral works Tintagel or The Garden of Fand, among many others. Unlike those instances, however, Bax refrains from any actual musical depictions of the movement of water in Water Music. The six-minute piece begins with a lovely, slightly melancholy melody. A more passionate second theme provides contrast. Later, the first idea returns with a more elaborate, and somewhat more dissonant, accompaniment. Many passages in Water Music remind one of the piano works of Claude Debussy and other "impressionist" composers.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2009 Lyrita 3113
    2005 Naxos 8557592
    2003 Chandos CHANX10132
    1992 Chandos 8497