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Bax: Tone Poems, Vol. 2 CD


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One of England's busiest and most recorded conductors of the late twentieth century, Vernon Handley emerged since the 1970s as the successor to Sir Adrian Boult and Sir John Barbirolli as the leading exponent of English music. Like Boult before him, he made a career specialty out of performing and recording symphonic music from England, some of it well-known and much of it overlooked by ... Read more in Amazon's Vernon Handley Store

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Bax: Tone Poems, Vol. 2 + Bax: Tone Poems / In the Faery Hills / November Woods / The Garden of Fand / Sinfonietta
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Product details

  • Audio CD (31 Mar 2008)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: Chandos
  • ASIN: B0015SRLWQ
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 121,709 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. First Northern Ballad: Tempo moderato / Allegro moderato con fuoco / Tempo 1 (Moderato) / Poco lento. Lamentoso - Allegro moderato - March time
2. Second Northern Ballad: Moderato (alla breve) - Poco piu mosso - Tempo 1 (Moderato) - Poco piu mosso
3. Prelude for a Solemn Occasion: Maestoso. Moderato - Listesso tempo - Molto moderato
4. Nympholept
5. Red Autumn: Moderato - Stormily - Andante tranquillo - Tempo 1 - Poco meno mosso - Ancora poco meno mosso - Piu mosso (Tempo 1) - Largemente
6. The Happy Forest: Vivacious and fantastic - Un pochettino piu lento - Lento tranquillo - Poco piu mosso - Tempo 1
7. Into the Twilight

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Colin Fortune VINE VOICE on 27 Jan 2009
Format: Audio CD
Northern Ballad No 1 first appeared on an excellent Lyrita black disc in the 1970's and has been reissued by Lyrita together with a superb programme of Bax works by the great (but underrated) Sir Adrian Boult - Handley's inspiration and mentor Bax - Orchestral Works. Direct comparison between the two recordings shows Boult's deeper sensitivity to the changes in the score supported by absolutely superlative playing from the LPO of the day. There is ia unified sense of purpose on the Lyrita disc that is quite remarkable. That said, Handley's performance is, of course, also well worthy of 5 stars as he was a great performer and we have to be grateful that he insisted on recording all of the Northern Ballads together (including the possible Number 3). Heard together we have a symphonic suite of "northernness" with the vivid evocation of craggy landscapes and legendary stories that bursts out of the music. Bax in the 1930's was at the height of his powers and was steeped in the romance of the north. For me the Ballads are the main reason for buying this lovely disc but the other works are vintage Bax. Though you might listen to the Ballads together (indeed I advise you to) you might not want to listen to the whole disc at one sitting. That said, this is a valuable addition to the Bax discography and is a sheer delight. Warmly recommended.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Giles Allison on 11 Jun 2008
Format: Audio CD
This is the second volume of tone poems that Vernon Handley has recorded in the wake of his phenomenal account of the Bax symphonies. As with the first volume, this cd contains a mix of the familiar with the less so, together with one premiere recording. As to be expected from someone so completely immersed in the Bax idiom, Handley's interpretations are definitive.

The premiere recording is an orchestration by Grham Parlett of "Red Autumn", a piece that Bax originally wrote for solo piano in 1912 and which was then arranged for two pianos twenty years later. Parlett is a seasoned Bax scholar and has orchestrated his music before (notably the marvellous "Tamara" ballet suite, also recorded by Chandos). The work is rather intense and only lasts 5 minutes, but is sufficiently diverting to make Mr Parlett's efforts worthwhile. Perhaps the finest performance on the disc is "Nympholept", the opening bars of which must rank as some of the finest, most magical music Bax ever composed. The pace is a bit brisker than usual, and the opening in particular benefits from this; and the woodwind soloists play marvellously here. The "Three Northen Ballads" are less immediately approachable than the other works on the disc but their complexities reward repeated listening. Lewis Foreman's notes explain the history behind whether the third piece, Prelude for a Solemn Occasion, is in fact a "Northern Ballad". Whatever one calls it, the work is certainly one of the finest of Bax's tone-poems from the early 1930s, and the BBCPO brass section gives its absolute best in the climactic peal of bells with which the piece finishes.

It is unlikely that these works will ever be played better than they are on this disc.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By I. Giles TOP 50 REVIEWER on 8 Dec 2012
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This disc, recorded in 2006-7, marked the conclusion to Handley's last and very complete survey of Bax's orchestral output. The whole series consisting of a boxed set of the symphonies plus two discs of Tone Poems provides a definitive view of the composer and has been presented in state of the art recording quality by Chandos.

This disc, being the second of the two discs of tone poems, strays a little further from the main path. However, for those familiar with the Garden of Fand or Tintagel, the rewards of this exploration will prove to be worthwhile as Bax is generally at his most concise in the less expansive compositions away from the symphonies. As always there is a strong literary inspiration behind the works which concentrate on emotional expression of the written word. Bax could therefore be fairly described as belonging to the Impressionist world in these works. In particular the Northern Ballades, Happy Forest and Into the Twilight should prove especially rewarding.

Most of the works on this disc were orchestrated at dates after their original composition. So Nypholept was orchestrated in 1915 (composed 1912), the Three Northern Ballades were orchestrated between 1931-4 (composed 1927), the Happy Forest in 1922 (composed 1914) and Red Autumn (1912) was orchestrated in 2006 by Graham Parlett. Whatever their original form the orchestrations on this disc are all completely successful on their own behalf and the disc makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of the complete Bax.

I would therefore suggest that this disc is a very important collection and essential to any follower of Bax.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 5 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A Disc Not To Be Missed 18 Dec 2008
By David A. Wend - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
the inner world of Arnold Bax, vol. 2 25 Feb 2011
By jsa - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Vernon Handley, a Baxian of great distinction as established by his top notch cycle of the symphonies, offers all three of the Northern Ballads, Into the Twilight, The Happy Forest, Red Autumn, Nympholept, In the Faery Hills, November Woods, The Garden of Fand and Sinfonietta on two Chandos cd's of which this is the second volume (see also Arnold Bax: Tone Poems). These discs offer fine performances by the BBC Philharmonic, and are considered the latest word in Bax given the conductor's credentials and the 2005-2007 recording dates.

There are, however, several options when it comes to the Bax tone poems, including recordings from Boult, Thomson, and David Lloyd-Jones and all of them are at least very good. Boult's pioneering Lyrita disc is a long-time favorite recorded in excellent stereo sound (Boult conducts Bax), and I would recommend it as a very solid choice. Boult authoritatively covers four of the strongest of Bax's works in this category: the first of the three Northern Ballads, The Garden of Fand, Tintagel and November Woods, along with the brief Mediterranean. Bryden Thomson's recordings of the tone poems date from the early to mid 1980's (see, for example Bax: Orchestral Works, Vol. 3) and (Bax: Orchestral Works, Vol. 4). His recordings of the symphonies came on the heels of several classic Lyrita recordings from the likes of Norman Del, Myer Fredman and Raymond Leppard, however, he proved to be a great Baxian who most effectively communicated the atmospheric vs the dramatic in Bax's music. For this reason, his recordings of the tone poems, which are essentially atmospheric pieces, are among the best I've heard. He presents the brooding and mysterious elements in these wonderful scores in a way like no other, all recorded in excellent sound.

Boult brings unparalleled drama to the tone poems, but that doesn't mean that his is the only way to approach these works. Handley's way is a little more relaxed and atmospheric, but not quite to the degree of Thomson. One can argue the relative merits of each of these Bax masters, however, one of the things these Handley discs have in their favor is the order in which the works are programmed. Nothing sounds insignificant here as Handley makes very persuasive arguments for the lesser known tone poems which are presented as parts of an organic whole. Each work flows very well into the next, and what we are left with is an extended view into the mysterious inner world of the composer.

Although Handley's two discs encompass eleven of Bax's twenty-two tone poems, one of the finer ones, and one of the composer's own favorites, The Tale the Pine Trees Knew, is not among those included. It is, however, included in the second of the Bryden Thomson anthologies referenced above, and in the Lloyd-Jones disc as well (Bax: Symphonic Poems).

In short, I wouldn't want to be without the Boult, Handley or Thomson discs as all are beautiful in their own way.

Five stars.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Thomson for the symphonies--but Handley for the tone poems! 20 Nov 2013
By Long-time Listener - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
While some argue that Bryden Thomson outshines Handley in the Bax symphonies, it seems to me that the reverse is true here. Thomson's broad, autumnal, atmospheric readings somehow make these tone poems too diffuse. Handley gives suitably atmospheric readings, while better outlining their architecture and their dramatic structures, which is not merely academic but pays off in terms of a more cogent and tightly-knit presentation. It was Handley's tone poem CDs that got me hooked on Bax; maybe it will do the same for you. For more details on individual pieces, please refer to the other reviewers here.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A suitably fine and fitting end to Handley's recording career 8 Dec 2012
By I. Giles - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This disc, recorded in 2006-7, marked the conclusion to Handley's last and very complete survey of Bax's orchestral output. The whole series consisting of a boxed set of the symphonies plus two discs of Tone Poems provides a definitive view of the composer and has been presented in state of the art recording quality by Chandos.

This disc, being the second of the two discs of tone poems, strays a little further from the main path. However, for those familiar with the Garden of Fand or Tintagel, the rewards of this exploration will prove to be worthwhile as Bax is generally at his most concise in the less expansive compositions away from the symphonies. As always there is a strong literary inspiration behind the works which concentrate on emotional expression of the written word. Bax could therefore be fairly described as belonging to the Impressionist world in these works. In particular the Northern Ballades, Happy Forest and Into the Twilight should prove especially rewarding.

Most of the works on this disc were orchestrated at dates after their original composition. So Nypholept was orchestrated in 1915 (composed 1912), the Three Northern Ballades were orchestrated between 1931-4 (composed 1927), the Happy Forest in 1922 (composed 1914) and Red Autumn (1912) was orchestrated in 2006 by Graham Parlett. Whatever their original form the orchestrations on this disc are all completely successful on their own behalf and the disc makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of the complete Bax.

I would therefore suggest that this disc is a very important collection and essential to any follower of Bax. The interpretations, performances and recordings are without peer and for anyone interested in the program I would suggest that this disc should be seriously considered as being worth purchasing. This is especially true of those who, like myself, have previously bought the symphonies boxed set and Tone Poems volume 1. This marks a very fitting end to the recording career of Vernon Handley, a life-long Bax advocate.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Arnold Bax piano music 29 Oct 2013
By Leo - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Ms. Loveridge is a wonderful pianist and I am so happy that she has recorded a fair amount of his music.
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