Aureole etc.

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Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


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Arnold BAX (1883-1953)
Arnold Bax - First Recordings

Fanfare for a Cheerful Occasion [00.49]
Kneller Hall Musicians/Capt H.E. Adkins - rec. 17 June 1932
Mater Ora Filium (1922) [11.30]
Leeds Festival Choir/Albert Coates - rec. 29 Oct 1925
Tintagel (1917-1919) [11.59]
New Symphony Orchestra/Eugene Goossens - rec. 17 May 1928
Mediterranean (1921) [3.07]
New Symphony Orchestra/Eugene Goossens - rec. 23 May 1928
Overture to a Picaresque Comedy (1934) [8.57]
orch/Hamilton Harty - rec. 18 Apr 1935
Morning Song - Maytime in Sussex (1947) [8.22]
Harriet Cohen (piano); orch/Malcolm Sargent - rec. 7 Feb 1947
Oliver Twist: Theme [7.40]; Pickpocketing [00.57]; Chase [1.33]; Fagin's Romp [1.48]; Finale (1948) [4.04]
Philharmonia Orchestra/Muir Mathieson - rec. 1 Sept 1948
Malta GC: Quiet Interlude [1.56]; Gay March (1942) [1.24]
London Symphony Orchestra/Muir Mathieson - rec. 1944?
Fanfares for the Royal Wedding of T.R.H. Princess Elizabeth and The Duke of Edinburgh (1952) [00.56+1.33]
Trumpeters Royal Military School of Music/Capt M Roberts - rec. 4 Dec 1947
Talk by Arnold Bax (1949) [10.05]
rec. 6 June 1949 BBC

In one fell swoop Symposium document for our discovery and delectation all Bax's early orchestral recordings.

This is the first time that the Goossens-conducted items and Mater Ora Filium have appeared on CD ... or LP for that matter.

Excepting Tintagel and Mater Ora Filium this selection encompasses the lighter Bax. His discography up to the 1960s was dominated by works that were far from profound. One accordingly gains from this collection a skewed picture of Bax the composer. On this basis one would wonder whether he was predominantly a purveyor of slender charm. The symphonies would take you by surprise.

The Goossens Tintagel has been a favourite of mine since I was sent a cassette transcription back in the 1980s. Goossens’ control of the pulse is with a rod of iron. He is another Mravinsky at least at that stage in his career. His BBC broadcast of the Second Symphony (circa 1956) showed that his gripping way with the best of Bax's music had not diminished over the intervening years. Mediterranean was done rather stiltedly and with marginally more yield by Hickox. This Goossens version lilts irresistibly. It is however very light Bax and the Harty overture is also hardly a profound piece. The choral piece Mater Ora Filium impresses by the monumental tone of the massed choir. More recent recordings sound under-strength by comparison.

It is fashionable to write off Morning Song. Certainly it is no Winter Legends nor even a Saga Fragment. However it is a triumphant example of a light lyric concert piece that is light on the palate and scored with innocently lucid accomplishment. It recalls Macdowell's Woodland Pictures as well as touching on the carefree Delius. There is even a momentary reference to Lambert's Rio Grande. The Oliver Theme, also with Harriet Cohen, is cut from similar cloth. From Malta G.C. the Gay March is a pleasant effusion being inoffensive and a touch rum-ti-tum jolly rather like the Korngold March of the Merry Men from the 1930s Warner Bros film of The Adventures of Robin Hood. The other film music is pleasing but its charms are slender even in these capable hands.

The fanfares were written both before his elevation to be Master of the King's Music and after. They are shatteringly well done and real virtuosity is delivered by the crack Kneller Hall players in the 1932 recording. They would have made real hay with Janáček's Sinfonietta ... if only.

The notes are, of course, by Lewis Foreman and the project would not have been possible but for his collection and those of Graham Parlett, Stephen Lloyd and Warwick Round.

A fascinating and generous document preserving recordings of performances made within twenty years of the works’ premieres. More for the specialist but anyone at all drawn to Bax will want this - not east for a unique Tintagel and a profound Mater Ora Filium.

Rob Barnett


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