Elegiac Trio for Flute, Viola and Harp or Piano
Arnold Bax (1883-1953) was born in London. He studied at the Royal Academy of Music. Of independent means, he never needed to teach or conduct. He was a fine pianist but his main interests were composing music and poetry. His strong affinity for Ireland led him to spend considerable time in that country which influenced his outlook and music. The 1916 Easter Uprising in Ireland and its brutal suppression, which included the execution of several of his friends, was to have a profound influence upon him. He is remembered mostly for his orchestral compositions but he wrote a great deal of chamber music. His music show many influences, perhaps the strongest of which is impressionism.
The Elegiac Trio, composed in the Spring of 1916, was clearly meant as a memorial to the friends he had lost in the Rising. But the music does depict what happened. There is no violence or high drama to found here. Rather, the music is dreamy and reflective. In one long movement, it is divided into two sections. In the first section, the flute and viola present long-lined melodies over the accompaniment of arpeggios in the harp. The second section is slower. Here the viola and the harp together sing a noble elegiac melody while the flute flutters around it.
Although the trio was originally composed for the harp, however, it is eminently playable with a piano. The fact is, that not many amateurs or even professionals for that matter very often get together in ensembles which include a harpist, which means this lovely music will remain unplayed and unheard. For that reason, we have drawn players attention to the fact that the piano can serve as a substitute for the harp.