Ashley Wass

Bax: The Princess's Rose Garden: Aean; A Hill Tune; Lullaby

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Evocative titles often tell a lot about a piece of music. From Debussy's Golliwog's Cakewalk to Janácek's In Tears to Satie's Three Pieces in the Form of a Pear, the titles can give the listener a vital clue about the meaning of the music. And so it is in this disc of light piano by self-proclaimed "brazen romantic" Arnold Bax. With works named The Princess' Rose Garden, Sleepy-Head, and The Maiden with the Daffodil, the listener knows before the music starts that childlike enchantment and a certain amount of whimsy are on the program. The third volume of Ashley Wass' series of Bax's solo piano music is a complete contrast to the first two volumes featuring his piano sonatas. In place of the weightier and more dramatic issues of the sonatas, Bax, better known internationally for his tone poems and symphonies with pronounced Irish sympathies, also wrote piano music of a more personal character, and the music here is surely among the most intimate and ephemeral examples of his art. Pianist Wass, who had already turned in technically impressive and emotionally red-blooded performances of the sonatas, proves himself as deft at the other end of Bax's expressive spectrum with an adroit technique and an ardent dedication to the music. For listeners who already know and love Bax's symphonies, tone poems, ballets, concertos, and piano sonatas, this disc will be the next logical place to go. For listeners looking to fill-out their shelf of light English piano music from the first half of the twentieth century, this disc could be the next place to go. Naxos' sound is vivid, but just a bit too close and a tad too clattery.

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