A Disc Not To Be Missed
D. A Wend | Buffalo Grove, IL USA | 12/18/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The music for this disc was recorded in 2006 and November of 2007 making this the final disc of music conducted by the late Vernon Handley. It is perhaps fitting that Maestro Handley's final disc is music of Sir Arnold Bax, one of the composers her championed.
The Three Northern Ballads were composed in the late 1920s and early 1930's. The first is evocative of a northern landscape but also includes a march melody that seems to recall a heroic saga. The second begins with a melody that calls up a misty landscape. The music goes on to explore this rugged landscape, slightly reminiscent of Sibelius, with some engaging melodies. The Third Ballad portrays a Scottish landscape and begins in a similar vein as the Second with a mysterious melody but the mood soon alters with the introduction of trumpets. There is the impression that Bax is also including a bit of history in his depiction as the orchestral becomes a mixture of triumph and despair with the ever-present depiction of nature. The music rises to a great crescendo with organ as the piece closes.
Nympholet (from 1912, orchestrated in 1915) is an impressionistic piece that one could describe as a depiction of a summer day. In fact, Bax included some lines on the score about a haunted wood where nymphs dwell and dance. The music is characterized by dance melodies and hushed evocations of nature. Red Autumn is a premiere recording of a piano duet orchestrated for this recording. It is typical of Bax's nature music. The Happy Forest (1914, orchestrated in 1922) was inspired by a short story and is full of good humor and lyrical beauty. The music evokes a world of shepherds and satyrs in an Arcadian landscape marvelously.
Into the Twilight (1908) establishes its nocturnal mood from the start with quiet, lyrical melodies. The passages for celesta and flute have a marvelous effect of mystery and as the melody is augmented by tympani and strings the music does tend to remind one of Rosenkavalier. After a dance-like interlude the music becomes quiet and fades away. The BBC Philharmonic play beautifully and these performances act as a memorial to Vernon Handley who brought the music of Arnold Bax into prominence.