Sir Arnold Bax: Symphony No.2 and Winter Legends for Piano & Orchestra

English composer Arnold Bax was born in the late nineteenth century but had his maturity and came to prominence in the first half of the twentieth. His was an affluent and literate London-based family and Bax was able to pursue a dazzling career undistracted by worldly necessities. He had no need to earn a living, teach, give concerts, court the great and good or chase commissions. In this sense he was like his ultimately more popular contemporary Vaughan Williams. No stranger to writing songs, chamber music and piano solos, Bax seemed most fluently at ease with the orchestra.

The Second Symphony, written in London and Geneva, carries a dedication to Serge Koussevitsky who directed the premiere with his Boston Symphony Orchestra on 13 December 1929. Eugene Goossens gave the United Kingdom premiere on 30 May 1930. Bax who had not been able to travel to Boston, wrote: “I feel very grateful to Eugene for his brilliant performance … which lifted it at last for me into a purely abstract world. So for the moment I feel unduly tender towards its grim features.”

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Lyrita have transferred both recordings very successfully. Rob Barnett’s notes are very good. Most admirers of the composer will already possess recordings of both of these scores but I would still encourage them to hear this disc. Bax certainly had an ear for sonorities and instrumental colour. As you might imagine, the stereo recording is considerably richer and more detailed than the fifty-year-old sound in which the symphony is presented.

John Quinn, Musicweb-international

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