Bax: Symphony in F

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COMPOSERS: Bax
LABELS: Dutton Epoch
ALBUM TITLE: Bax: Symphony in F
WORKS: Symphony in F (realised M Yates
PERFORMER: RSNO/Martin Yates
CATALOGUE NO: CDLX 7308

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Arnold Bax’s seven numbered symphonies have given meat and drink to many discerning music lovers, not least those who bought Vernon Handley’s splendid box-set on Chandos (2003). But the Symphony in F, written in Dresden in 1907, has existed only in the form of a piano score. That score has gained a new lease of life thanks to the ingenuity and skill of Martin Yates, who has previously resuscitated works by Moeran and Cyril Scott.

Yates’s orchestration of Bax’s massive work is entirely in keeping with the composer’s exuberant early strivings: brass converge in heaps, harps fly, flutes wriggle – all part of a busy, constantly shifting tapestry. Strauss is an obvious presence, so is the Celtic twilight. The jostle of styles and teeming invention provide numerous striking moments in an admittedly baggy and uneven parade with its share of awkward corners. Warmer sound and glossier playing from the RSNO would have better projected the music’s Romantic heart, especially in the inner movements. But at least this profligate creation, never heard in public, has risen from the dead, and can be weighed, analysed, and savoured. 

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Geoff Brown