Author Topic: Sir Arnold Bax  (Read 174490 times)

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Offline Montpellier

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Re: Sir Arnold Bax
« Reply #80 on: February 03, 2008, 11:08:24 AM »
Curious - MDT has it available now - which doesn't mean they actually have it in stock.  They're pretty efficient though and it means they can order it now (and usually it's in stock at Nimbus).

They table the release date as 02/08 - hopefully that means next Friday in the American date format, not the 2nd of August.

http://www.mdt.co.uk/MDTSite/product//SRCD233.htm


Edit - got the day wrong!
« Last Edit: February 03, 2008, 11:23:08 AM by Anacho »

Sean

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Re: Sir Arnold Bax
« Reply #81 on: February 03, 2008, 11:40:57 AM »
I never got on with Bryden Thomson's renderings except the 4th which I believe was recorded in Belfast and doesn't suffer his quirky tempi - his version of the 3rd is particularly quirky.  I know Bax didn't include metronome markings in most of his scores but Thomson's Bax 3rd really is all over the place.  But the problem afflicting all Thomson's recordings (except the 4th) is that they were recorded in an appalling acoustic.  All-Saints, Tooting Bec, has a lovely cathedrally acoustic - gorgeous for Palestrina but an absolute pain for Bax' romantic, chromatic harmonies.  They get insufferably blurred.  They may appeal to some tastes but those wanting to hear Bax harmonies un-muddied have to turn elsewhere.

I can't let this pass. Thomson's survey of the symphonies has certainly not been surpassed by Handley or Lloyd Jones: it is very much Handley's approach to soften and blur the contour and terracing, emphasizing the visceral passion central to Bax's music- Thompson by contrast is much clearer in his grasp of the music's intensity and sexuality. I know his recordings very well and regard them extremely highly, and the brooding inner world of the Third is marvellously captured, and with a fine account of the visionary slow movement.

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Sir Arnold Bax
« Reply #82 on: February 03, 2008, 03:02:24 PM »
Just received the new Lyrita of Bax Symphony 2 and 5: a wonderful disc. Raymond Leppard's recording of No 5 is (in my view) in a class of its own.  From the opening bars there is an utterly compelling visionary quality, of enormous epic power which I have not found in other versions (and I have the Lloyd-Jones, Handley and Thomson versions too). Myer Fredman's No 2 is similarly compelling.

I too think that Thomson's Bax recordings are undervalued. My favourite Thomson CD has his unrivalled version of Nympholept, Paen and the beautiful Christmas Eve in the mountains. His recordings of symphonies 1,2,3,4 and 6 are excellent and 5 and 7 are good also.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline J.Z. Herrenberg

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Re: Sir Arnold Bax
« Reply #83 on: February 03, 2008, 03:16:12 PM »
Just received the new Lyrita of Bax Symphony 2 and 5: a wonderful disc. Raymond Leppard's recording of No 5 is (in my view) in a class of its own.  From the opening bars there is an utterly compelling visionary quality, of enormous epic power which I have not found in other versions (and I have the Lloyd-Jones, Handley and Thomson versions too). Myer Fredman's No 2 is similarly compelling.

I too think that Thomson's Bax recordings are undervalued. My favourite Thomson CD has his unrivalled version of Nympholept, Paen and the beautiful Christmas Eve in the mountains. His recordings of symphonies 1,2,3,4 and 6 are excellent and 5 and 7 are good also.

I concur. Although I will gladly believe Handley does a very fine job, I have always enjoyed Thomson's readings, ever since buying them (on cassette!) at Tower Records, in London, in the 1980s.
Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. -- Plato

Offline Montpellier

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Re: Sir Arnold Bax
« Reply #84 on: February 04, 2008, 06:26:20 AM »
Don't get me wrong about Thomson's readings - the 4th seems brilliant though it's one of those for which I don't have the score and was IIRC only the second attempt at setting this symphony on record.  His 3rd was...bizarre, especially in the last movement as Jezetha has concurred.  Perhaps I'm biased by Barbirolli's reading - he knew Bax personally - Bax had plenty of opportunity to comment.   

Still, it all comes down to what appeals to us individually in the end.  I gave my view based on an amount of detailed study of Bax' symphonies (except the 4th). 
...I welcome contrary views.   ...And I wish Thomson had chosen somewhere better to record.  The only worse place I can think of is the Sistine Chapel without its drapes.  I start a bit suspicious of Thomson's tempi though.  He was the one who recorded Elgar's 2nd about 15 minutes longer than the slowest hitherto.   

Offline J.Z. Herrenberg

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Re: Sir Arnold Bax
« Reply #85 on: February 04, 2008, 06:44:47 AM »
the 4th seems brilliant though it's one of those for which I don't have the score and was IIRC only the second attempt at setting this symphony on record. His 3rd was...bizarre, especially in the last movement as Jezetha has concurred. And I wish Thomson had chosen somewhere better to record.  The only worse place I can think of is the Sistine Chapel without its drapes.    

 ;D

I have never ever seen a Bax score - so you have most of the symphonies? Lucky you! You say Thomson's Fourth 'seems brilliant' - this raises the interesting question whether to believe your ears or your reading eyes... And re the Third - yes, as I said, Thomson does some very strange things with the tempi there that, even without having recourse to a score, seem unwarranted.
Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. -- Plato

Sean

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Re: Sir Arnold Bax
« Reply #86 on: February 04, 2008, 06:52:12 AM »
Good to hear from other Baxians- he's a misunderstood composer, intuitive and rhapsodic, rather Wagnerian of course, not transparently structural. Once I understood what he was doing and saw how misplaced my irritation looking for formal frames was, I became a total convert and even listened to nothing but Bax for a while.

The Fourth is the most intoxicated and dreamy, delerious symphony and I played it endlessly. I read there's a Boult/LSO recording of it as well as the Barbirolli. I've talked about Bax a lot in the past so I avoided this thread, but for the record here's the works of his I've got to know-

A Legend, Cathaleen ni Hoolihan, Cello concerto, Christmas eve, Concertante, Cortege, Dance of wild Irravel, Festival overture, From dusk till dawn, Golden eagle, In memoriam,
In the faery hills, Into the twilight, London pageant organ, Malta GC, Mediterranean,
Northern ballads Nos.1-3, November woods, Nympholept, Oliver Twist Parlett suite, On the sea shore completed, Overture to a picaresque comedy, Paean, Rogue’s comedy overture, Romantic overture, Roscatha, Russian suite, Spring fire, Summer music, Symphonic scherzo, Symphonies Nos.1-7, Tamara suite, The Garden of Fand, The Happy forest, The Tale the pine-trees knew, The Truth about the Russian dancers, Three Pieces, Tintagel, Violin concerto, Winter legends, Concertante for piano left hand, Morning song, Saga fragment, Symphonic variations, Clarinet sonata, Elegiac trio, Flute, oboe, harp and string quartet concerto, Harp quintet, Nonet, Oboe quintet, Octet, Piano quintet, Piano trio, String quartets Nos.1-3, Viola sonata, Violin sonatas Nos.1-2, Hardanger, Moy Mell, Piano four hands sonata, Red autumn, The Devil that tempted St Anthony, The Poisened fountain, Rhapsodic ballad, A Hill tune, Apple-blossom-time, A Romance, Burlesque, Country tune, Lullaby, Nereid, O Dame get up and bake your pies,
On a May evening, Piano sonatas Nos.1-4, Sleepy-head, The Maiden with the daffodil
The Princess’s rose garden, Water music, Winter waters, A Lyke-wake, Eternity, Glamour
Slumber song, The Bard of Dimbovitz, Enchanted summer, Fatherland, Mater ora Filium, Walsinghame

Offline J.Z. Herrenberg

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Re: Sir Arnold Bax
« Reply #87 on: February 04, 2008, 06:56:54 AM »
That's more or less the whole canon, Sean, as far as I know! Did you read Lewis Foreman's biography, by any chance? I haven't. Yet...
Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. -- Plato

Sean

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Re: Sir Arnold Bax
« Reply #88 on: February 04, 2008, 06:58:55 AM »
I guess not...

Offline Montpellier

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Re: Sir Arnold Bax
« Reply #89 on: February 04, 2008, 08:29:22 AM »
;D

I have never ever seen a Bax score - so you have most of the symphonies? Lucky you! You say Thomson's Fourth 'seems brilliant' - this raises the interesting question whether to believe your ears or your reading eyes... And re the Third - yes, as I said, Thomson does some very strange things with the tempi there that, even without having recourse to a score, seem unwarranted.

The 3rd was one I studied in detail.  You're right - the score isn't necessary to see how he botched the last movement - a shame because the entry of the Cor Anglais' "Piu Lento" episode (about halfway through, excluding the Epilogue) is robbed of its tranquil magic almost completely because he takes the preceding section too slowly.  At one point, Bax asks to speed up a little to "piu moderato" which Thomson doesn't, IIRC. 

All the symphony scores now seem available through Warners who took over Chappel, the original publishers - the Warner ones are a bit pricey, the original pocket scores for 1, 3, 5 and 6 are availble through Boosey's (etc) under a "Select Music" imprint.

I don't know if Boult recorded Bax' 4th.  Tapes lifted off the BBC broadcasts in 1956 or thereabouts surface here and there.  The 2nd (cond: Goossens) was issued on CD by Dutton (as was the 3rd by Barbirolli - a better reissue than the EMI imo).  I think Fredman did a No 3 in Australia.   If Sean can find a comprehensive list of performances I'd be most glad to have a look if he'd care to share! 

edit: grammar

 


« Last Edit: February 04, 2008, 08:50:16 AM by Anacho »

Offline J.Z. Herrenberg

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Re: Sir Arnold Bax
« Reply #90 on: February 04, 2008, 08:47:38 AM »
I read somewhere (on Musicweb or the Bax site itself) that Goossens' 2nd is terrific. Do you know it?
Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. -- Plato

Sean

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Re: Sir Arnold Bax
« Reply #91 on: February 04, 2008, 08:54:01 AM »
Quote
If Sean can find a comprehensive list of performances I'd be most glad to have a look if he'd care to share!


I'm just going on a Boult recording mentioned in the 1984 Penguin guide.

tjguitar

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Re: Sir Arnold Bax
« Reply #92 on: February 04, 2008, 09:22:21 AM »
Quote
If Sean can find a comprehensive list of performances I'd be most glad to have a look if he'd care to share!

I'm guessing this is as comprehensive you will get, of studio recordings, anyway:

http://musicweb.uk.net/bax/disc.htm

Sean

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Re: Sir Arnold Bax
« Reply #93 on: February 04, 2008, 09:59:01 AM »
A good site- plenty of interesting stuff to read.

Sean

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Re: Sir Arnold Bax
« Reply #94 on: February 04, 2008, 11:25:03 AM »
I like this- Handley talking about Vaughan Williams

At the beginning of our interview Tod pulled Lewis Foreman’s study of Bax off his shelf and read a favourite passage from it aloud.

VH: Ah yes, I love this. This is Vaughan Williams in a letter to the Radio Times. And he says: “I notice a curious error in your issue of December 16th in discussing a concert of compositions by Arnold Bax and various continental composers – Szymanowski, Schoenberg, Conrad Beck, Hindemith, Norbert van Halaman, Poulenc and Stravinsky. You state that Arnold Bax is clearly in place in this distinguished company. I take it that the sentence was meant to express that the other composers were not unworthy of a place beside Arnold Bax? Personally I do not consider that most of the names on that list are worthy to stand beside Bax but this, of course, is a matter of opinion.” Glorious!

tjguitar

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Re: Sir Arnold Bax
« Reply #95 on: February 04, 2008, 12:00:22 PM »
Did you read Lewis Foreman's biography, by any chance? I haven't. Yet...

It is excellent.  I pretty much loathe reading books (I do enough of it for school!) but I couldn't put that book down the summer that I got it. A fascinating read bringing some insight about compositions that I didn't know before, also tons of letters to and from the man. 

If most composer biographies are of that ilk---I might need to check out the library! :)

Offline Montpellier

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Re: Sir Arnold Bax
« Reply #96 on: February 04, 2008, 12:43:45 PM »
I'm guessing this is as comprehensive you will get, of studio recordings, anyway:

http://musicweb.uk.net/bax/disc.htm

Many thanks for that! 

I notice it omits the Goossens/BBC SO issue of the No. 2 on Dutton (CDBP 9779) that claims to be off the BBC tapes probably because it wasn't an official recording of the time. 

I read somewhere (on Musicweb or the Bax site itself) that Goossens' 2nd is terrific. Do you know it?

Well, it's ok.  The reading has enough drive but the sound is muffled, a little low on frequency range, considering what was possible at that time.  Certainly a brave effort on Goossens' behalf, considering his age and health.  I bought it - at £6 it was well worth it especially as it contains more Bax.   It doesn't have quite the power of Fredman's reading (speaking from hearing Lyrita's LP.  I've yet to hear the CD but according to reports above it lives up to the high quality of Lyrita reissues.  I'll definitely be buying that one)!

It's a shame that the other BBC recordings aren't available.  They'd make interesting comparisons - probably conductors who knew Bax.

edit: timings of No 2.
In case anyone is interested, the Goossens is 36'47; Fredman: 37'39; Thomson: 41'42. 




« Last Edit: February 04, 2008, 01:26:29 PM by Anacho »

tjguitar

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Re: Sir Arnold Bax
« Reply #97 on: February 04, 2008, 01:14:45 PM »
Quote
I notice it omits the Goossens/BBC SO issue of the No. 2 on Dutton (CDBP 9779) that claims to be off the BBC tapes probably because it wasn't an official recording of the time.

it could also just be out of date.


Notice it also shows that the Lyrita recording of Symphony 6 and Overtures not released on CD, when of course, they were released quite a few months ago.

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Sir Arnold Bax
« Reply #98 on: February 05, 2008, 01:30:37 PM »
I read somewhere (on Musicweb or the Bax site itself) that Goossens' 2nd is terrific. Do you know it?

Yes, it's a terrific performance as is his Tintagel which comes on the same disc.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Sean

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Re: Sir Arnold Bax
« Reply #99 on: February 06, 2008, 01:40:29 AM »
I got to know the Second from the Edward Downes/ BBCSO LP, the most remarkable thing about this recording being that the orchestra sounds like it's playing absolutely central repertory not something from the fringes: they play with an entirely naturally mature conviction and refinement you might only expect in say a Brahms symphony. The music very much deserves it of course.