ALBUM TITLE: Bax Orchestral works
WORKS: Tintagel; November Woods; The Tale the Pine Trees Knew; The Garden of Fand; The Happy Forest
PERFORMER: Royal Scottish National Orchestra, David Lloyd Jones
CATALOGUE NO: 8.557599
Originally fillers for David Lloyd-Jones’s excellent Bax Symphonies series, it made good sense to collect them into an anthology of Bax’s symphonic poems: after all, it’s arguable that Bax’s contribution to this genre was the more profound and original. Certainly in the quasi-trilogy of 1916-19 – The Garden of Fand, November Woods and Tintagel – he achieved three near-as-dammit masterpieces which will continue to be played (though not, in the case of the first two, as often as they deserve) as long as people care about British music. The Happy Forest is an altogether lighter confection in scherzo form, while The Tale the Pine Trees Knew is substantial enough to challenge comparison with November Woods. But though Lloyd-Jones makes the most eloquent case for this comparatively late score that I have heard, even he cannot conceal that the fire has gone out of the piece before the end, and its material is less distinctive than in the earlier works.
The RSNO responds with warmth, alacrity and colour to Bax’s by no means straightforward writing. As interpretations they do Bax proud, and if they don’t quite rival Vernon Handley’s stunning Tintagel, Beecham’s Garden of Fand (EMI) or Boult’s November Woods (Lyrita), this is a bargain nonetheless. Calum MacDonald