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Speaking for itself

An Arnold Bax symphony -
welcomed by DAVID THOMPSON

'The present disc maintains these exalted standards.'

Bax: Symphony No 4; Nympholept. Royal Scottish National Orchestra/David Lloyd-Jones. © 2002 HNH International Ltd.

For me, Bax's music, like Bruckner's, is an acquired taste. Given a 'blind tasting' of a symphony by either, there would be no question as to the identity of the composer, but one might have more of a problem identifying the specific work. One is taken into an agreeable, and often inspiring sound-world of atmospheric evocations, towering climaxes and felicitous effects, but one looks for the unique qualities of an individual work as one might look for a particular landmark, when travelling through long miles of similar scenery.

This very personal impression should not in any way be taken as a negative criticism of the music, but it does influence the way in which I approach and listen to it: no score, no effort made to make a mental analysis of form, harmony and counterpoint. I enjoy such music far more by simply 'going with the flow', surrendering to the experience, and letting the music speak for itself.

The rewards of this can be rich and pleasurable indeed, with the proviso -- and it is a big one -- that execution, interpretation and sound are all first class; good enough never to detract from the total involvement of the listener in the composer's richly-imagined sound-world. These demands are here triumphantly met by David Lloyd-Jones and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and the Naxos engineers have also come up trumps. So, if Bax is for you, this disc is a superb bargain, which can hold its own with any of the other versions available. My last recorded excursion with the work was in the inspired company of my near-namesake, the late Bryden Thomson, whose cycle has, incidentally, just been reissued in superb sound -- even more opulent than in this admirable new Naxos version. In truth, though, you cannot go wrong with either.

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Copyright © 19 June 2002 David Thompson, Eastwood, Essex, UK


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