Sunday, December 14, 2008

Bax, the Celtic symphonist

Sir Arnold Bax (1883-1953) is hardly a household name amonst British composers, unlike say Elgar, Vaughan Williams and Britten. In my humble opinion though he may be the best of them all in the symphonic side of the repertoire: seven symphonies, various concertante works (especially his cello and violin concertos) and most of all, his symphonic poems. All in all he wrote 18 of these tone poems, and the best of them deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as those of Liszt, Strauss, Dvorak, Sibelius and Respighi. Naxos offers an excellent selection, presenting two of the composer's own favourite works (The garden of Fand, The tale the pine trees knew) as well as two of my favourites (Tintagel, November woods), with a fifth one (The happy forest) thrown in for good measure. Excellent examples of his late romantic style with celtic influences in the themes. I do not have this disc myself, having opted for the earlier Chandos releases, but the customer reviews suggest high quality. Warmly recommended.