Until recently I thought that Bax's second symphony was a lesser work to his more restrained third. But on recent listenings I have become increasingly enthusiastic about this work.
The first movement is an explosion of orchestral colour: there are gentler moments but much of this is demonic ballet music. To take another angle: I can't decide whether this is the sound of a younger composer updating Elgar for the early modern era or the sound of him giving Elgar a good kicking. Whichever it is, it is certainly done with enthusiasm and the orchestra revels in the brutality of the score.
How to follow that? The slow movement has beautiful moments but it is also disquieting. Nothing is taken for granted, there are questions everywhere. The finale opens with an ominous fanfare and march: there is no settling of or in the score yet. Finally their is a kind of resolution amongst dreamy harps and woodwind, but questioning chords continue until the end.
November Woods is a typical Bax tone poem with much wind and indeed gale blowing through the trees. It recieves an excellent performance here, far superior to Bryden Thomson's account on Chandos.
Other discs in this series have been rightly praised - don't miss out on this one - and if it doesn't impress at first - give it time.