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these performances are never less than good and I wouldn't want to be without this set
on 23 January 2016
Let me be clear: these performances are never less than good and I wouldn't want to be without this set. However, for all Vernon Handley's supposed architectural "grip," what I find lacking is, for want of better words, imagination and spirituality. It's all so "correct" and features some rather lack-lustre, uncommitted orchestral playing, to boot. My (personal) recommendations for Bax's symphonies recordings are:
No.1: London Philharmonic Orchestra / Myer Fredman - who really brings out the utter parody of the last movement.
No. 2: either London Philharmonic Orchestra / Myer Fredman or, on Chandos, Bryden Thomson. The latter is truly devastating!
No.3: LPO / Bryden Thomson and/or (if still available) Sir John Barbirolli's pioneering version with the Halle Orchestra.
No. 4: BBCPO / Vernon Handley and/or Ulster Orchestra / Bryden Thomson. David Lloyd Jones' account with the RSNO is also excellent.
No. 5: BBCPO / Vernon Handley and/or RSNO / David Lloyd Jones. Bryden Thomson's version with the LPO is utterly musclebound and the least satisfactory of his set.
No.6: New Philharmonia / Norman Del Mar and/or LPO / Bryden Thomson (his principal trumpet, to judge from his slovenly-played solo in the second movement, hasn't been made aware of the "Scottish Snap," surely ... otherwise a grand performance).
No. 7: All recordings of Bax's finest work (Yes!!) are excellent, but David Lloyd Jones' account with the RSNO is head and shoulders above the rest.