Vernon Handley

Bax: Tone Poems, Vol. 2

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Dedicated fans of Arnold Bax will have to hear this Chandos disc. The second volume in Vernon Handley and the BBC Philharmonic's survey of the English composer's complete tone poems, it includes not only well-known works like The Happy Forest and Into the Twilight, but rarities like Nympholept and the three Northern Ballades plus the world-premiere recording of Red Autumn. In every work, Handley knows how to get the best out of Bax's music by emphasizing his romantic themes, lush colors, and sweeping narratives and downplaying his sprawling structures, awkward transitions, and occasional banalities. With the tight and bright playing of the BBC musicians, Handley holds the ballades together without crushing their dramatic spirit and lets the hazy sensuality come through in Nympholept without succumbing to indolence or sentimentality. Though listeners unfamiliar with Bax are urged to try his symphonies first, those who already know those masterpieces will surely enjoy the music here. Chandos' digital sound is smooth, clear, and full.

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