Bax had visited Tintagel Castle during the summer of 1917, accompanied by pianist Harriet Cohen, with whom he was carrying on an affair at the time; he dedicated the work to her. He composed two poems on the theme, and the work is, to a certain extent, a sonic illustration of these. According to Bax, the music is meant to depict a castle perched high on the rocks, battered on a sunny summer day by the Atlantic Ocean. A certain Celtic flavour is apparent in the music; this provides the basis for one of the two themes in the work, meant to recall King Arthur and his connection to the castle, and which quotes a motif from Richard Wagner's opera Tristan und Isolde; the other theme depicts the sea.
The piece contains three sections. The first and last sections are somewhat grandiloquent, the first presenting the two main themes and the third a varied reprise:. in between these, there is a “development”. A typical performance of Tintagel lasts around fifteen minutes.
- Parlett, Graham; Parlett, David. "Parlett's Catalogue of music by Bax (1915-1919)". The music of Sir Arnold Bax (1883-1953) Edited by David Parlett from the catalogue by Graham Parlett. Retrieved 5 November 2010.
- Lewis Foreman, Liner notes from Lyrita recording with the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Sir Adrian Boult
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