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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Six down, One to go!, 6 Mar 2003
This review is from: Bax: Symphony No. 6 (Audio CD)
So, here is the penultimate issue in the Naxos survey of Bax symphonies.

First: a recap -

David Lloyd-Jones have been doing an excellent job in this symphonic cycle. The conductor has taken on two frequent criticsms of Bax: that his symphonies are structurally weak and that they meander - and his has thrown them back in the critics faces with propulsive and tightly held together accounts that show them to be coherent well argued works. Add to this the crystal clear sound and attention to musical detail and the series so far has been a triumphant success.

Now to the Sixth Symphony -

From the first few bars it is obvious that something is different. The sound is richer and more full bodied than on previous recordings. This may be due to a new recording venue: Glasgow Royal Concert Hall rather than the Henry Wood Hall. It may be a response to the music. The first few bars have a whiff of incense and an evocation of Arabia about them. From here on we are treated to the sound of Bax at his richest, he appears to be returning to the impressionistic sound world of his pre first world war pieces, but with an assurance and on a scale that he could not have contemplated then.

The companion pieces are well chosen. Into the Twilight is an early rich and ripe tone poem that shows both the continuity of Bax's works and how far the composer had advanced in the 26 years between it and the sixth symphony. The final piece Summer Music is a nine minute homage to Delius.

All in all a thoroughly enjoyable disc and one that will leave you impatient for the final instalment of the cycle, symphony number seven, which will, apparently, be released before the end of 2003*.

*As indeed it was, an October 2003 release.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A late and great Romantic, 19 Oct 2009
John Ferngrove (Hants UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bax: Symphony No. 6 (Audio CD)
Along with Robert Simpson, Arnold Bax (1883-1953) is probably the most criminally neglected of 20th Century British composers. There was a period in the twenties and thirties when he was arguably the musical establishment's key inheritor to Elgar, before being eclipsed by Vaughan Williams. Bax is one of those late Romanticists who flourished in Britain whilst the experiments of the Modernists were dividing Europe. This is not to say that the works of such composer's were reactionary. They built with great boldness upon their inherited traditions, but without resorting to the iconoclasm of their more revolutionary-minded counterparts. In Bax's case this boldness was expressed in terms of grandeur of scope and scale, and the supreme confidence with which he marshalled the colours made available by the expanding modern orchestra.

I have grown to love his symphonies Nos.4 and 5 in their classic Chandos versions under Brydon Thomson over nearly two decades, but the recent enthusiasm for the Naxos series under David Lloyd Jones has caused me to turn my attention Bax-wards once more, starting with this revelatory No.6. This is about as immediately accessible as classical music gets. One hears so many resonances of what has since been appropriated by Hollywood. We have been all acculturated to this kind of music since childhood, but in this we are hearing the source, and we are hearing it deployed in the service of more far-reaching symphonic aims than merely episodic cinematic contexts. The first movement is a relatively brief, but hugely panoramic tour de force. Bax was very much associated with the Celtic revival that focussed around W.B.Yeats, but when he is completely unleashed one cannot help but hear the Russian steppes in his music, complete with the ebb and flow of Tartar and Cossack hordes across it. The second movement, again quite brief, is achingly romantic, with a definite nod towards Delius, but using Delian language in service to narrative forms rather than of the snap shot favoured by the master miniaturist. The third movement is the longest, being almost a symphony within a symphony, that seeks to meld the two distinct worlds portrayed in the previous movements. It is a masterly exercise in building power and grandeur, gradually but inevitably, from the smallest beginnings. It begins very slowly and delicately, more so even than the slow movement. It then meanders upward into idyllic pastures with those Celtic connotations in which he so delighted. We visit places of youthful exuberance and mischievous play, but their comes a point where we start to ask if we are ever going to arrive at a point of balance with the awesome forces that were so decisively delivered in the first movement. But then we start to ratchet up into ever higher gears until a joyous whirlwind is indeed let loose. Then a small miracle occurs. Just when one thinks one has arrived at what will obviously be a triumphal conclusion we enter into a slow unwinding that takes us down into a mysterious twilight of great beauty.

The symphony is accompanied on this disc by two of his numerous orchestral miniatures. Into the Twilight (1909) and Summer Music (1921 rev.1932). These are both pastoral idylls, warm and gentle, again reminiscent of Delius but with a will to let through currents of grandeur and scale that you wouldn't find in the more tender-hearted Delius. Comparisons with the gentler moods of Vaughan Williams also come easily. The Celtic element is discernible in both these pieces. This is particularly so in Into the Twilight in which, being earlier, the Wagnerian influence is more easily heard, and which includes passages that are strongly suggestive of a Celtic Wagner.

One can only look forward to the day when Bax is finally awarded with the renewal of recognition he deserves. It is a curious feature of British culture as to how quickly and easily it lets go of its great composers, even the ones it bothers to notice in the first place. Perhaps one day we'll get a Bax symphony on the proms and the public will get a chance to hear what they have been denied so long in concert repertoires. If so, there could be no more decisive statement of Bax's genius than this mighty symphony No.6.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Tasty, 1 Dec 2011
Nobody "Alan Boyes" (Newcastle, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bax: Symphony No. 6 (Audio CD)
I shall quote my review from the Naxos series recording of the Third Symphony to provide some context here:

"I must make a confession: I've never been a great Arnold Bax fan. It's not that I don't find plenty to like but his music always comes with frustrations for me - it often sounds like a half set jelly that is covered by huge dollops of whipped cream with hundreds and thousands to hide the mess underneath. It tastes delicious of course. There are so many aurally gorgeous moments in his music that I'm almost prepared to forgive."

I was familiar with Bryden Thompson's recording of the Sixth on Chandos prior to hearing this Naxos recording. Considering how frustrating I often find Bax's music, this Naxos recording knocked me for six with the very first bars. David Lloyd Jones's interpretations of Bax have been lauded in his Naxos series, and he deserves credit here too, but the sound engineering conveys the rugged and driven opening with spectacular clarity. The best symphonies often grab you by the throat at the beginning and this is what you get here. The Glasgow Town Hall acoustic is as big a star as the Scottish National Orchestra and the conductor in making this opening movement so compelling.

I mention Bryden Thompson here because, although many of his Bax recordings encouraged the listener to enjoy a sound wallow rather than pick up any sense of direction or structure. His recording of the Sixth was a rare exception - I remember how satisfying the epilogue was in that recording.

True, even with such a striking start, even Lloyd Jones can't prevent the music from meandering at times but he holds the work together as well as could be hoped. The concluding epilogue is as similarly convincing as the Thompson version with the recording and playing here on Naxos just about taking the honours. This is my favourite recording of a Bax symphony now and one that I'll happily return to many times in spite of my reservations about Bax's music on the whole.

"Into The Twilight" is also an attractive filler so if you like Bax's music then you can't go wrong with this spectacular recording.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars David Lloyd-Jones & Royal Scottish National Orchestra Naxos Arnold Bax Symphonies & Tone Poems - Volume 6, 7 Jun 2012
Mr. Mark A. Meldon (Somerset UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bax: Symphony No. 6 (Audio CD)
Volume 6 of the Naxos cycle of Arnold Bax symphonies and tone-poems was recorded in August 2002 in a different location than the first five volumes, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, but the producer was the constant Tim Handley, who has provided us with great sound from David Lloyd-Jones and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. There are three works on the disc, the early, atmospheric tone-poem "Into the Twilight" and the rather later Delian "Summer Music". Whilst it's nice to have these pieces, the main work here is, of course, the Sixth Symphony. To quote the late Peter J Pirie again:-

"Bax's Sixth Symphony was given its first performance by Sir Hamilton Harty, at a Royal Philharmonic Society concert on 21 November 1935. It was written in 1934, mainly in Morar, Inverness-shire, one of the most remote and wild parts of the Western Highlands, Bax's principal workshop at this time. like the preceding, and the following, symphonies, the Sixth opens at a higher degree of dissonance than he had used before - a harsh and grinding sound. The first movement begins "moderato", but with immoderate music. Bax uses an ostinato, played by most of the basses, including the third trombone. Over this a shrill figure outlined in seconds is heard in wood-wind and horns; this music continues for eight pages, and culminates in a mighty series of modulatory chords, a vertiginous wrench in eight bars from C sharp minor to C minor. True to Bax's usual practice, the ensuing Allegro is the opening material speeded up in the new key; doubly speeded up, sine the ostinato resumes, not only in "allegro" but also with halved note-values. Bax by no means always writes a clear-cut second subject, and even here this wistful, tentative tune for flutes in the quietest part of their compass is derived from earlier material. Bax had always been affected by the fate of frail beauty in a violent world, and in the most obvious of musical terms this movement seems to comment on this aspect of reality. The slow movement suggests a development of the process; it opens in a mood that seems to recall Dante's happiness remembered in sorrow. The melody that haunts it is of great beauty, and it alternates with a lamenting Scotch snap. In the course of the movement the first tune takes on a ghostly aspect, and passes away at the end in a procession of ghosts over a pulsing drum.

The finale is a scherzo of sinister aspect, introduced by two subjects, one aspiring, the other liturgical, and it culminates in a climax the suggests some psychic force of explosive power at last released. At the climax of its destructive violence the liturgical theme is heard. as the fragments sink broken into silence the Epilogue enters a world of beauty and peace, but hardly this world. The long horn solo unites the two themes, and all the horns intone a last benediction, and with their final chords the music turns to the major. The great conflict that had raged in Bax's symphonies from the first was finally resolved, and his last and seventh symphony was untouched by it".

(Quote from Peter J Pirie, "The English Musical Renaissance", Gollancz, 1979 English Musical Renaissance)

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Epic enchanted, 15 Nov 2010
This review is from: Bax: Symphony No. 6 (Audio CD)
This was the first symphony I ever listened to from start to finish. Back then it was exactly how I imagined a symphony to sound like - i.e. epic, tuneful, bold, basically a journey through a lush canvas of sound. It sparked my interest in orchestral music. Seven years on - after purchasing and listening to countless 'modern' symphonies - Bax's No.6 remains one of my favourites. I can't say much more than that. A great symphony from the last century.
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Bax: Symphony No. 6 by Arnold Bax (Audio CD - 2003)
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