Arnold Bax: Hardanger
Composed in 1927 during his ‘middle period’ of composition, Arnold Bax’s Hardanger for two pianos shows off the composers talents as a performer. Although often remembered and celebrated for his orchestral works, Bax also composed many works for piano. A gifted pianist himself, his piano works are often some of his most inspired and complex.
Hardanger is composed for two pianos and its genesis comes from Bax’s great admiration for Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg. The work is dedicated to Grieg with a famous acknowledgement on the front page of the score.
Based on the local dance from the Hardanger (also known as Hardangerfjord) district in Norway. The piece shows how cultures collide through a group of musical variations. Bax adopts the style of this Norwegian halling dance by creating dance-like outer sections to encompass a slower folk-like melody in the middle.
The flourish of sound and the strong rhythmic points keeps the music driving forward. The depth that can be achieved between two pianos is great and Bax utilises this to create a compelling dialect between the two.
Hardanger is in a simple ABA form with each section marked very clearly for the listener. From the fiery opening to the nostalgic middle and the sparkling finale, Hardanger is the perfect encore piece.The piece lasts just over three minutes and takes you on a special Norwegian journey.
If you like this then you might be interested in reading about Arnold Bax’s 1917 orchestral work Tintagel