Bax: Festival Overture; Christmas Eve; Nympholept; Tintagel

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Bax
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Festival Overture; Christmas Eve; Nympholept; Tintagel
PERFORMER: London Philharmonic, Ulster Orchestra/Bryden Thomson
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9168 DDD
First of all it must be said that these are not new recordings. They were first issued separately, with the Bax symphonies, by Chandos in the Eighties. They are now reissued, at full price, as a collection, in response to many requests.

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Bryden Thomson draws out all the romance and passion of these complex, colourful scores, perhaps at times lingering a little over the detail at the expense of the structure.

In Tintagel the lovely long melody and the wild restless music portraying, in turn, the peace and turbulence of the sea – metaphors for the Arthurian and Tristan legends and Bax’s own passion for the pianist Harriet Cohen – are very well realised. Christmas Eve is about Bax’s preoccupation with Ireland and its troubles rather than seasonal sentiments, evoking ‘an ecstasy of peace, falling for one night, on the troubled hills’.

Bax was very much influenced by Gaelic and Northern mythology. You can sense the sultry, perilous enchantment of the midsummer forest in Nympholept (literally ‘caught by the nymphs’); the music, Debussy-like, capturing all the languor and enticement of the unobtainable.

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This is music to make your imagination run riot. Sumptuous sound, pity about the pricing policy. Ian Lace