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Thread: Arnold Bax

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    Default Arnold Bax

    I recently heard one of Bax's symphonies on radio (can't remember which one). Could someone who knows his music fairly well tell me which symphony is the best one to buy and listen to? Naxos has the whole lot available and I'm thinking of buying one or two of these, but I don't know which one. Which one/s are the most recommended?

    This is also a composer guestbook where people can write down their impressions of this composer generally.

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    Arnold Bax is, indeed, a great composer, but he's a very neglected one in my opinion. He combined elements of romanticism with impressionism. He was an English composer who had an affinity with Ireland and lived there for a very long time.

    Unfortunately, the bad thing is his symphonies are not widely available, BUT there have been two complete symphony cycles recorded on the Chandos in addition to the one on Naxos. One by Bryden Thomson, who is regarded as one of the finest Bax interpreters, and Vernon Handley, who is also a well known interpreter of his music.

    I would avoid the Naxos recordings. They do not capture the spirit of Bax in my opinion. Bax did seven symphonies. I would seek out Symphonies Nos. 1 & 6 first by Bryden Thomson and the London Philharmonic and then if you like them, go ahead and get the other ones.

    There have also been about 10 volumes or so of Bax's orchestral works released on Chandos. Those are also essential listening in my opinion.

    Good to see another Bax fan on here! Happy listening.

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    You should pay attention to his chamber music too, his string quartets are delightful.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JTech82 View Post
    Arnold Bax is, indeed, a great composer, but he's a very neglected one in my opinion. He combined elements of romanticism with impressionism. He was an English composer who had an affinity with Ireland and lived there for a very long time.
    I just purchased the RNSO/Lloyd-Jones (Naxos) recording of Bax's Symphony No. 7 and Tintagel. I think it is a good recording, excellent digital sound, very breathy. The tone poem Tintagel is a symphonic impression of the castle of Tintagel on the Cornish coast. As JTech says above, it is very impressionistic, comparable to Debussy's La Mer. The Symphony No. 7, his final symphony, was completed a few months before the outbreak of WWII. It is essentially upbeat and lyrical, but tension is not far below the surface - listen to the quiet ending which is rather ambigious, in my opinion.

    An interesting composer whose works seem more free and rhapsodic and at the same time more tightly structured (3 movements, not 4) compared to Vauguan Williams or Walton's symphonies. I recommend the Naxos recordings, especially if you can't afford the Chandos mentioned above. But it's worth checking out this music, no matter which label you try it out on. JTech mentions his Symphony No. 6, which I read somewhere that critics regard it as his finest symphony. I might buy that next.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Habib View Post
    I recently heard one of Bax's symphonies on radio (can't remember which one). Could someone who knows his music fairly well tell me which symphony is the best one to buy and listen to? .
    I would recommend the fifth; it is, imo, the most tightly organized of the seven, yet loses little in evocative power. Tintagel is absolutely wonderful as well, as noted below; it's coupled with the fourth symphony, itself also highly evocative, on a Chandos recording of the Ulster Orchestra with Bryden Thomson. These would be my top recommendations.

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    The amazing thing is now I'm just waiting on a new conductor to champion Bax's music. Bryden Thomson and Vernon Handley have all passed away.

    They were the only conductors that, in my opinion, got inside of his music. The Naxos recordings with David Lloyd-Jones are pretty good, but they fail to capture the texture and atmosphere that is so vital to Bax's music.

    Bryden Thomson


    Vernon Handley
    Last edited by JTech82; Mar-04-2009 at 01:02.

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    I agree with you that Handley and Thomson were two of the greatest UK conductors of their generation, but I also think that Lloyd-Jones is a great conductor of the current generation. I have a number of his recordings on Naxos of various British composers, and they are all excellent. Critics have raved about his Bax cycle, for example David Hurwitz of ClassicsToday.com gave it a 10 out of 10. But whichever version one likes, it is good that we have a number of interpretations of Bax's output to choose from, and they are all very fine. I subscribe to the late great Ray Charles' opinion about classical recordings that, in a way, they must all be good, because so much work has gone into them from the artists, engineers and producers point of view. So it's all good.

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    If you like Bax then there's a good chance you'd also like Dyson.
    Si vos agnosco is tunc vos es quoque erudio

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    I've just bought the Naxos recording of Bax's Symphony No. 6, and whatever the reason, I like the Symphony No. 7 better. I think it has one of the most amazing openings I've heard in the repertoire. This is somewhat odd, as the Rough Guide to Classical Music doesn't even mention the 7th, but says that the 6th is considered to be his masterpiece. It also recommends the Naxos recording. I suppose this proves what JTech has said on the Martinu thread, that one has to sometimes go with one's heart when enjoying music, not get too bogged down in the theories and stuff.


    But I'm sure I'll grow to love the 6th eventually. It just doesn't grab me like the 7th does. But I like Bax enough to buy some of his other works later.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Andre View Post
    I've just bought the Naxos recording of Bax's Symphony No. 6, and whatever the reason, I like the Symphony No. 7 better. I think it has one of the most amazing openings I've heard in the repertoire. This is somewhat odd, as the Rough Guide to Classical Music doesn't even mention the 7th, but says that the 6th is considered to be his masterpiece. It also recommends the Naxos recording. I suppose this proves what JTech has said on the Martinu thread, that one has to sometimes go with one's heart when enjoying music, not get too bogged down in the theories and stuff.


    But I'm sure I'll grow to love the 6th eventually. It just doesn't grab me like the 7th does. But I like Bax enough to buy some of his other works later.
    It's important to remember music is subjective. What you like someone else might not like and vice versa.

    As far as guides to classical music are concerned, I don't believe in them, never have.

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    I adore Bax's music and have complete sets from both Handley and Thomsen. The only works I'm missing are a the choral works.
    A few years back while in London i stopped by an antiquarian book shoppe and thumbed through the sheet music finding a few piano pieces.
    I brought them home and put them away until i had time to start learning them. A year later i took them out and noticed that on the inside of one was the full autograph of Bax in purple ink.
    Checking online and with auction houses yielded the same publishers sheet music signed as well! Seems he signed some for students on a visit to one of the universities in the early 20's.
    Not a bad deal for £2 was it. I cherish that autograph now and hope to find a Moeran someday.

    Favourite Bax works: Violin concerto,Symphonies !1 and 3,the tone poems and piano works.

    Jim
    Vancouver,Washington USA

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    Quote Originally Posted by handlebar View Post
    A few years back while in London i stopped by an antiquarian book shoppe and thumbed through the sheet music finding a few piano pieces.
    I brought them home and put them away until i had time to start learning them. A year later i took them out and noticed that on the inside of one was the full autograph of Bax in purple ink.
    Checking online and with auction houses yielded the same publishers sheet music signed as well! Seems he signed some for students on a visit to one of the universities in the early 20's.
    Not a bad deal for £2 was it. I cherish that autograph now
    That's a great story - thank you. Not everyone shares this love of things like signatures and so on, but for me it has real significance - a way of personalising a mass-produced object. It's a weird old universe that has brought things to a focus in such a way that you, and Bax, are linked physically through space-time by that signature. I know, I know, call me a sentimentalist if you will; but I know something of the pleasure that signature brings you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Elgarian View Post
    That's a great story - thank you. Not everyone shares this love of things like signatures and so on, but for me it has real significance - a way of personalising a mass-produced object. It's a weird old universe that has brought things to a focus in such a way that you, and Bax, are linked physically through space-time by that signature. I know, I know, call me a sentimentalist if you will; but I know something of the pleasure that signature brings you.
    Well i feel that a sentimentalist has a better view of the world now and from a historical point of view. Some call this sentiment naivete. Balderdash!! I consider it knowledge,awareness and a part of one's duty not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

    Yes, that signature makes me feel closer in connection to Bax. I know that when a musician or composer comes to my city (Portland,Oregon) i try to meet that one and ask for a photo or autograph. NOT because I want to sell it like so many sports folks do. But to become part of something bigger than myself. Something that I can never be as I'm not a composer and only an amateur musician.

    Jim

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    Quote Originally Posted by handlebar View Post
    Favourite Bax works: Violin concerto,Symphonies !1 and 3,the tone poems and piano works.
    Handlebar/Jim,

    What's the violin concerto like? I'm thinking of getting it on CD. Any impressions/comparisons would be welcome...

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    A delightful yet tuneful piece. I would liken it to the Moeran or possibly the Dyson.
    It has it's own flavour and does not approximate anything with possible exceptions of a wee bit of Elgar. At least thats what I hear in it.
    I'm listening to the Coleridge-Taylor VC and can hear a little of that turn of the century spice.

    Try the Bax VC. You will like it. The Mordkovich recording is good on Chandos as well as the Ida Kersey/Barbirolli CD on Dutton. Both are a delight!



    Quote Originally Posted by Andre View Post
    Handlebar/Jim,

    What's the violin concerto like? I'm thinking of getting it on CD. Any impressions/comparisons would be welcome...

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