Bax: Music for Two Pianos: Sonata for Two Pianos; Festival Overture; Moy Mell; The Devil that Tempted St Anthony; Red Autumn etc

COMPOSERS: Bax
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Bax
WORKS: Music for Two Pianos: Sonata for Two Pianos; Festival Overture; Moy Mell; The Devil that Tempted St Anthony; Red Autumn etc
PERFORMER: Ashley Wass, Martin Roscoe (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.570413
Bax’s works for two pianos are practically unknown repertoire, yet it was a medium for which he wrote a good deal, especially for the celebrated duo of Ethel Bartlett and Rae Robertson, and virtually everything on this very enjoyable disc is of high quality. Unlike his solo piano pieces, his music for two pianos often suggests orchestral effect: not just in the buoyant transcription of the 1909 Festival Overture but in the impressive Sonata for Two Pianos, composed between Winter Legends and the Third Symphony and clearly related to both. Likewise the short tone poem Red Autumn could easily have been made into an orchestral piece. More obviously pianistic are the darkly Ravelian The Poisoned Fountain, the exquisite Moy Mell, another ‘Irish tone poem’, and Hardanger, Bax’s bracing homage to Grieg and the music of the Hardanger fiddle. Then again there is a Lisztian diablerie and Scriabinesque languor in the tale of The Devil that Tempted St Anthony.

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Altogether this is a disc that enlarges one’s view of Bax, and that effect is certainly due to the committed and idiomatic playing of Ashley Wass and Martin Roscoe. Their vigour and brio in the Vivo e feroce finale of the Sonata is highly exhilarating, while their sensitivity of touch and pedalling are on display in the murky waters of The Poisoned Fountain. Much to be recommended. Calum MacDonald