Bax: Concertante for Three Wind Instruments & Orchestra

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LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Concertante for Three Wind Instruments & Orchestra
PERFORMER: BBC Philharmonic/Martyn Brabbins
What a remarkably adaptable conductor is Martyn Brabbins – able to sound keen and in intelligent control in British music from Arnold Bax to Harrison Birtwistle. No question, he has the measure of this music, whether it’s the confidently striding Elgarian opulence of London Pageant or the dreamy, faintly troubled Romanticism of the Concertante for Three Wind Instruments. If the rumty-tumty English jollity of the Concertante’s finale doesn’t quite come to life, I suspect the fault is more Bax’s than Brabbins’s; it’s a vein in which this composer rarely gave of his best. The Tamara Suite makes a refreshing contrast. It’s hard to believe this music is a recent discovery (it was orchestrated and ordered only last year by Graham Parlett); Brabbins and the BBC Philharmonic play as though they’d had plenty of time to get to know and like it. The quality is variable, but in its finest passages it shows how much of value Bax learned from the visits to Britain of the Ballets Russes – Tamara is more assured, focused and vibrant than the early, rhapsodising Cathaleen-ni-Hoolihan. A disc for Bax enthusiasts rather than the uninitiated, but for both performances and recordings very recommendable. Stephen Johnson