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The latest stop in the Maggini's tour of 20th Century British composers is Arnold Bax -- and it's another winner. Bax is far better known for his overtures and symphonies. Since form wasn't his strong point in works for full orchestra, I was curious to hear what he'd done in a medium where structure and the interplay of lines are more apparent. His coherent and classical-sounding approach was a pleasant surprise.

Bax's first quartet was completed in 1918, the second in 1925. No 1 has attractive melodies and an Irish feel that goes from lively to sentimental and back. It is an easy-going entertainment and was quite popular between the two World Wars. No 2 is longer and more serious in tone with a heavier reliance on contrapuntal techniques. The first movement begins with an unusual extended cello solo. The other instruments join in gradually. Throughout the work Bax takes his time. Ideas are developed thoroughly and with intelligence. No 2 is the more challenging work, but I can see why No 1 was more popular, and I suspect it will be played more often by buyers of this disk.

The Maggini gives enthusiastic, first-class performances. Some might at times prefer a more astringent string tone, but I think the sound matches the music. I recommend the recording to those who are looking for conservative, melodic 20th Century works outside the standard repertoire. Buyers of previous Maggini recordings won't need much urging.

Copyright © 2 October 2002 Ron Bierman, San Diego, USA

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Bax: String Quartets Nos 1 and 2

8.555282 DDD Stereo 2001 HNH International

The Maggini Quartet

Arnold Bax: String Quartet No 1 in G (1918); String Quartet No 2 in A minor (1925)

PURCHASE THIS DISC FROM AMAZON

PURCHASE THIS DISC FROM CROTCHET

DAVID THOMPSON LISTENS TO ARNOLD BAX

CELTIC TWILIGHT - ROBERT ANDERSON WRITES ABOUT BAX

BAX CHAMBER MUSIC, WITH BILL NEWMAN

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