Possibly the best Bax album available
Larry VanDeSande | Mason, Michigan United States | 04/09/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Sir Arnold Bax (1883-1953) was an English composer strongly influenced by Ireland and the sea coast. He described himself as a romantic and recent bios have confirmed that. He had several affairs and the negative outcomes from those often show up in his music. His disdain over World War I also is on display in anger and related negative attitude projected in his scores.
Bax wrote seven symphonies between 1920-40, all in the 20th century English romantic style, all in three movements, and none with a true adagio or slow movement. This constructive style is the most obvious weakness of these otherwise engaging romantic symphonic edifices that last from 35-45 minutes.
His musical style, like that of his compatriot Frederick Delius, blended English romanticism and Iberitan impressionism with a strong Celtic influence. He wrote a range of orchestral music including overtures and tone poems -- the most famous about "Tintangel" on the north coast of Corwall England -- chamber music and seven variable but similar symphonies, of which No. 6 may be the best even though No. 3 is the most often recorded. I have not heard the much ballyhooed Vernon Handley accounts of the Bax symphonies, which many critics hold dear.
This recording, made in the early 1970s when Lyrita was trying to show the world all the great unknown music there was by British composers, holds its place with any recording ever made of the Bax Symphony 6. It is finely played and conducted by Norman Del Mar, a veteran conductor of the era that specialized in recordings of Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Delius and Britten. The production displays all Bax's emotions -- his passion, the fascination he had with the heaving and sighing of the ocean, his anger and disappointment, and his hope -- perhaps better than any other symphony or recording.
Del Mar steers a middle course in this version between the too-romantic apporach of Thomson and David Lloyd-Jones overreliance on Bax's anger, which makes his recordings for Naxos a bit too one dimensional, making the music seem tougher than necessary. The four Elgarian-add ons included here are mainstream English fare full of good spirits and strongly accented sentiments about Bax's homeland and Ireland.
The transluscent recording is better than those Naxos are producing today and is one of the strongest selling points for this issue. If you've heard about the revival of the Lyrita line and wonder what the fuss is about, give a listen to this recording and you'll see why some critics prefer yesterday's best analog recordings to today's digital constructs. There is a depth and level of warmth and fullness not typically apparent in today's modern recordings.
For Baxians that want to pursue this matter further, one of the year's most heralded new recordings is the Lyrita reissue of the Bax Symphonies No. 2 and 5, with special plaudits due the latter symphony, one of the composer's best. It just became available in USA in May 2008 and is definitely worth your trouble, time and money. It shows, again, how well Lyrita knew this composer when just about no one else in the world did."
'THE' Classic Bax Sixth
Richard Ryberg Adams | Heidelberg, Germany | 02/05/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Despite its 42-year age, this recording of Bax's Sixth Symphony still surpasses all subsequent versions both in terms of performance and sound, in my opinion. It was the first fully professional recording of a Bax symphony to appear in the stereo era and it was this recording that began to reverse the decline of interest in Bax's music since the composer died in 1953. I don't know how this disc was received critically when it was released but overtime it has become a favorite of all Baxians and recent reviews of this new Lyrita CD indicate critics recognize its status as one of the greatest Bax symphony recordings ever made. What sets this recording apart from those by Bryden Thomson, David Lloyd-Jones, Douglas Bostock and Vernon Handley? Well, despite its age, it has the best the sound and that's critical to a symphony as colorfully orchestrated and complex as the Sixth. This recording has far more weight and impact than any of the others while at the same time is more open and atmospheric. The original LP was extremely impressive but it also emphasized the multi-miking of the original production. It appears that some remixing has been done for this CD production as balances now sound a little more natural and instruments (especially the woodwinds and harp) don't protrude quite as much. Del Mar was also fortunate to have the great New Philharmonia at his disposal and they play brilliantly. No other orchestra that has recorded this symphony can match them in producing such a rich, full sound or in creating such hushed, quiet pianissimos. (One bit of trivia - the New Philharmonia made this recording the same week in July 1966 as their famous recording of Holst's Planets with Sir Adrian Boult for EMI.) But the real star of this recording (aside from Bax himself) is Norman Del Mar. He was one of the great British conductors of his generation and was known for being something of an eccentric with a very big personality. That "big" personality comes through in this performance as tempos tend to be a little on the extreme (fast in the opening moderato, but very slow in the second movement) but it's all put across with such passion and conviction that the result is electrifying. This is the one recording of the Sixth that really captures its epic qualities and convinces that this symphony is among the handful of greatest 20th Century symphonies, as Vernon Handley claims. Even if you have any of the other recordings of Bax's Sixth in your collection, you do need this new Lyrita. It's superior to all other interpretations - even Vernon Handley's strangely cool interpretatoin on Chandos -- and it comes with newer recording by Handley of several Bax overtures that can't be found anywhere else. True, these overtures are far from being the best that Bax was capable of even in this kind of much (I much prefer the `Overture to a Picaresque Comedy' and `London Pageant' to any of these pieces) but they're fun to hear and reveal a side of Bax we don't come across too often. So...the very highest recommendation for this vintage Bax recording and a huge thank you to Lyrita for finally making it available again. See more reviews at www.arnoldbax.com."
Another timeless Lyrita classic now on cd
jsa | San Diego, CA United States | 03/17/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I first purchased this recording of Bax's sixth symphony on the Musical Heritage Society label over thirty years ago, thus I am very familiar with it. At the time, MHS was a courageous pioneer in licensing Lyrita's recordings of 20th century British composers, most of whom who were largely unknown to Americans. This included Bax, Moeran, Butterworth, Rubbra, Bridge, Rawsthorne, Ireland, Bliss and so on. At the time, Adrian Boult's recordings of Ralph Vaughan Williams were becoming known, but probably most classical enthusiasts were most familiar with The Planets when it came to modern British music. When the LP era faded away, the Lyrita recordings, most of which were & still are definitive, disappeared. In the meantime I bought Bax symphonies conducted by Lloyd-Jones & Handley, both of which are very good, but are just not in the same category as the Lyrita issues which featured Norman Del Mar, Myer Fredman, Raymond Leppard, and Adrian Boult in the tone poems.
Thanks to this cd release, an essential classic of recorded British music has been restored to circulation. If you have not discovered Bax, this is a good place to begin as the sixth is a very approachable symphony. If you already own another recording of the sixth & love Bax, buy this anyway. The shorter pieces, other than Rogue's Comedy Overture, are new to me & make a pleasant bonus to this outstanding recording of the sixth."