LABELS: Carlton BBC Radio Classics
WORKS: Tintagel; Northern Ballad No. 2; Northern Ballad No. 3; Pagan Symphony
PERFORMER: BBC PO/Edward Downes
CATALOGUE NO: 15656 91592 ADD
Downes’s 1969 RCA recording of Bax’s Third Symphony is justly celebrated. This new release, of live recordings from the early Eighties, is equally impressive. Downes’s exciting and atmospheric Tintagel is bold and muscular. The passion of tragic, forbidden love (Bax had run away with Harriet Cohen to Cornwall) is palpable too. The brooding Second Northern Ballad is loosely based on Scottish folklore and the influence of Sibelius is evident. Again Downes paints a highly evocative picture of forbidding, dark, mist-laden glens. The Third Northern Ballad (‘Prelude to a solemn occasion’) begins sinisterly in the depths of the orchestra before the music becomes noble and triumphant, as if ‘the monsters’ have been vanquished.
Downes’s vision of classical antiquity that is Bantock’s colourful Pagan Symphony rivals the critically acclaimed Handley/Hyperion version. The BBC Philharmonic responds enthusiastically with virtuoso playing, from each section of the large orchestra, to these scenes of Arcadian celebration and splendour – from the clumsy, boozy dancing of the Satyrs, to the rich sensuality of Aphrodite and the awesome majesty of the gods. Music to fire the imagination. Ian Lace