As I hoped
youíve noticed, the Bax site has been dormant for quite some time.
reason for my neglect of the site is due to my having switched jobs
and cities late last year and the lack of time Iíve had since to
concentrate on much else but getting adjusted to my new work
environment and home.
that things in my personal life are finally settling,
back at work on the site and hopefully
be keeping it updated every month or so.
latest update includes reviews of two very interesting new discs
that feature works by Bax that have been completed by Graham Parlett.
is a regular contributor to this site and a close friend so I
obviously have great regard for him as a person and scholar but even
if I didnít know him as well as I do, Iíd still marvel at his
abilities to complete and orchestrate Baxís music.
understands Baxís sound world so completely that heís able to
recreate it even when Bax has given him very little to work with as
was the case with certain sections of
Concertino for Piano and Orchestra.
Baxians truly owe Graham our deepest appreciation for all he does to
promote and preserve the work of this great but still terribly
Iím feeling a
little depressed right now as Iíve been searching the orchestral
programs for next season to see what announcements of Bax
performances I can add to the site and sadly Iíve found almost
Proms schedule was just announced and the only work by Bax being
played is the delightful but not very representative work, ďLondon
I want to thank the Ulster Orchestra and Paul Watkins for at least
giving us this little morsel.
disappointed the new controller of the Proms, Roger Wright,
have followed up last seasonís success of the Moeran Symphony with
one of Baxís great symphonies but we are getting Parryís Fifth so I
suppose that is progress.
still have to ask why are the Bax symphonies neglected year after
was so much excitement about the symphonies at the time the Naxos
and Handley Chandos recordings were coming out but those great sets
didnít result in one professional performance of a Bax symphony
anywhere in the world that Iím aware of.
At the risk
of offending my wonderful British readers, Iím going to say it seems
to be an attitude that many British have, especially their
conductors, that their own music just isnít worth promoting unless
itís by one of the really big names such as Elgar or Britten.
this yearís Proms schedule with any of the recent Prague Spring
Festival schedules of the last several years and this is
Prague programs are always filled with works by Suk, Novak
even Foerster along with the expected Dvorak, Janacek and Martinu.
Czechs are very proud of all their music and their orchestras
program it a lot Ė as they should.
conductors advocate for their music abroad too.
Belohlavek has performed all the Martinu symphonies since taking
over the BBC Symphony and
recorded many wonderful discs of Suk, Novak and Dvorak with the
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, which now has
brilliant young Russian conductor who isnít exactly being shy about
his allegiance to his native music.
already engaged in complete cycles of Shostakovich, Rachmaninoff
and, I hope, Tchaikovsky.
has been championing relatively little known Italian orchestral
composers with the BBC Philharmonic such as Luigi Dallapiccola and
both Oramo and Vanska championed Scandinavian music while they were
with their British orchestras.
conductors do their share of Elgar, Britten, Holstís The Planets and
bits of Vaughan Williams as well as contemporary British music but
few move beyond the very tried and true.
Simon Rattle practically ignores British music written prior to the
time he was born with the exception of some Elgar and Benjamin
Berlin Philharmonic gave a searing performance of Elgarís
magnificent Second Symphony a year ago and the audience was thrilled
but the conductor was the Russian Kirill Petrenko Ė not Sir Simon
in Bamberg we have the brilliant Jonathan Nott but youíd never know
he was British looking from his programs.
Harding advocates for Britten and he did conduct a VW symphony in
Sweden last year but
programs are mostly made up of the usual fashionable continental
composers that everyone conducts.
Andrew Davis and Sir Mark Elder are more adventurous and they do
program more obscure works such as Baxís Spring Fire but those are
Colin Davis and Sir Roger Norrington likewise conduct all the best
known British composers and Norrington in particular should be
praised for programming so much Vaughan Williams around the world
but neither advocates for any of the lesser-known British composers
and British music isnít a central part of their repertoire either.
The death of
Vernon Handley and Richard Hickox in 2008 was indeed catastrophic to
British music because they were the only two
who programmed more obscure British music in their concert programs.
very telling that itís now the Russian Vasilly Sinaisky that the
Proms management is going to for performances of British music off
the beaten track.
brilliant at it so itís wonderful heís willing to do it but I think
itís sad they canít find a British conductor whoís also willing to
do this music.
Actually, Iím sure David Lloyd-Jones, Rumon Gamba and James Judd
would all be willing but they donít seem to get a lot of concert
engagements in England.
that have anything to do with their having recorded so much British
music that programmers in England are fearful they canít do anything
would be sad as Lloyd-Jones is one of the worldís leading
interpreters of Russian Music and James Judd and Ruman Gamba seem to
be brilliant at just about everything they do.
three conductors men have proven track records with Bax and would be
more than willing to perform a Bax symphony at the Proms if ever
asked but I fear we will be waiting a long time before that happens.
also hope that John Wilson will someday turn his attention to Arnold
Bax but as far as I know, the only work by Bax he has conducted is
So I suppose itís no wonder Bax is never played.
He lost his most passionate
advocate when Vernon Handley died and so far none of todayís leading
British conductors appear the least bit interested in sticking their
necks out to get some Bax played in their concerts.
There is talk that the new rising-star conductor Edward
Gardner might record some Bax for Chandos next year but I worry that
for him, it will only be an assignment and he wonít go on to try to
get the music played.
Todayís Bax activity is among instrumentalist like Ashley Wass and
instrumentalist like the Maggini and Tippett Quartet s who are
getting Baxís name out among the public.
They are British and they recognize both the greatness and
the ability of the music to communicate with audiences.
Perhaps Bax Ďs future reputation will rest on his
chamber music as it has found favor with chamber musicians
all over the world but Iím not seeing such a happy future for the
symphonies until some adventurous young conductor decides they are
worth the effort to learn and advocate for.
I hope thereís some young conductor at the Royal Academy
or Royal College of Music in London or at Trinity or
Manchesterís Royal College of Music Ė who is listening to Tod
Handleyís or the earlier Lyrita recordings of the Bax symphonies and
is discovering the uniquely hypnotic
and often shattering power