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Arnold Bax. Symphony No. 6

 

Gold Member
Username: John_a

LondonU.K.

Post Number: 3317
Registered: Dec-03
Recommended by Art Kyle on June 28 on Teaching an old dog new tricks.... However, works by Bax are unfamiliar to most regular contributors there, and there are only two or three throw-away references to Bax on the whole forum.

Art wrote:-

The composer whose works I have really enjoyed of late have been Arnold Bax. I have his complete symphony cycles both on Naxos and Chandos. Wonderful music with great a deal of color and moodiness, love it.

Three more of us agreed to get it, listen, and report back. One thread for one piece of music might take us beyond the fine "Music" thread Discoveries.

The recording we agreed on was the CD "Arnold Bax. Symphony No. 6" Naxos 8.557144, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, conductor David Lloyd-Jones, recorded 2002. The is at budget price, but Naxos has a reputation for high-quality recordings and performances.

I have my copy, but so far have only listened to the track "Into the Twilight". Which I liked. Thanks, Art!

Anyone heard the Symphony, yet....?
 

Gold Member
Username: Artk

Albany, Oregon USA

Post Number: 1050
Registered: Feb-05
I'm headed to Seattle. Hopefully I will have access to a computer now and again and can check in. If not I'll be back Wednesday or Thursday.
 

Gold Member
Username: John_a

LondonU.K.

Post Number: 3325
Registered: Dec-03
Let me thank you for the recommendation, Art!

I've listened once. It totally blew away my preconceived idea of Bax, probably based on the tone poem "Tintagel", which I always though was a bit effete and folksy. That might be like thinking there was probably not much to Vaughan Williams after hearing "Fantasia on Greensleeves".

This is a powerful, interesting symphony. The opening is massive, and arresting, and the it never wavers. I had no idea. And what a brilliant recording.

This is my first impression. My first reaction is why do guys like Mahler get all the publicity.....? This is shorter, more focussed, and just as large in scale as a purely orchestral Mahler symphony. It comes a bit later, of course, being completed in 1935. The booklet compares Bax with Sibelius. Just on this one hearing, I'd vote for Bax.

I am going to enjoy getting into this composer. Why is he so little known?!
 

Gold Member
Username: Artk

Albany, Oregon USA

Post Number: 1055
Registered: Feb-05
In Seattle and the computer keeps going down. Will discuss when I get home on Thursday. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I have alot more where that came from. It's my birthday so I think I'll go out and enjoy this lovely sunny Seattle day. Hotel room has perfect view of Mt.Rainier and the Seattle skyline.
 

Gold Member
Username: John_a

LondonU.K.

Post Number: 3331
Registered: Dec-03
No hurry, Art. That symphony is 70 yrs old... Good to hear from you. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!
 

Gold Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 4380
Registered: May-04
I managed to find a copy of the symphony today. I'll give a listen soon. Here's a bit more information to begin with.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00008IHW3

Without listening, here's where I'm starting from. I have never been a large fan of 20c/ English composers or artists. To me it seems they have very little to say and did not advance the art in any significant manner. They were followers not leaders at this time. My tastes run to the Russians, Scandinavians and some Germans from the late 1800's to the mid 1900's. Part of this is the similarity the Russian composers have to Russian theatre of the same time period. To me the artists in the Communist and fasc-ist nations of the period seem to have found a way to struggle against tyranny and oppression while satisfying the top and the bottom of the populace. John has heard this before, but a remark quoted on a Shostakovich Quartets recording sleeve went something like, "How can you not care about art? Where else can a man be shot because of a poem?" The riots that ensued after the premiers of symphonies, operas, plays and art shows is to me the struggle of art to survive. On the other hand, I think of the English artists at this time resting on their haunches and wondering what had just happened. I have ignored this period in English arts because I could not find much to interest me compared to what was happening in Russia and America. After William Morris the English took a long nap. If I'm missing anything that would open my eyes and ears to 20c/ English art, please let me know.

My opinion of Mahler is just about the same as Wagner. Neither composer is on my list of desert island music. We'll see if Mr. Bax is going to be a common visitor to the player.




 

Gold Member
Username: Larry_r

Naples, FL

Post Number: 1077
Registered: Oct-04
The lost is found - in this case, my copy of Bax symph. 6 - though it's not the one you chaps are discussing - it's by the London Philharmonic Orch., with Bryden Thomson. A Chandos disc.

Any comments or criticisms of this version? Be interested to hear any.

Jan - your comments are well-taken, sir. I often listen to Delius, and wonder if I like his work because it is so meadow-and-brook nice, or simply because I need some aural space filled in my listening room! (grin) Delius might make another "let's take a look at Brit composers" thread? (Even if Delius lived mainly in France)

More anon. . .

 

Gold Member
Username: John_a

LondonU.K.

Post Number: 3349
Registered: Dec-03
"After William Morris the English took a long nap"

I think it was William Morris who sent them to sleep.

Assuming we count Elgar as an honorary German (a good one); try Vaughan Williams. He learned orchestration from Ravel. Start with "The Sea Symphony". Vision, passion, ambition. Words by an American; noble; humanitarian; inclusive. Big stuff. I can start another thread, if you like!

Delius I find too much like a limp hand-shake, speaking personally, Larry. There is not much folksy wallowing in Bax's sixth, you have to concede that!

My nomination for Brit composer No. 1, and the most underrated: Henry Purcell. That's another saga...

BTW, anyone coming to the 2012 Olympics....?

I try never to descend to vulgar patriotic sentiment. Friends at work suggested I was just pleased that the Paris bid came second - but that is just a bonus. One has to take a rounded view.
 

Gold Member
Username: Larry_r

Naples, FL

Post Number: 1080
Registered: Oct-04
John A. - yep, I agree (generally) with your Delius assessment - though I sometimes listen when in an "I need peace" mood.

Yes, sir - the Bax Six has no time for folksy wallowing, as you so aptly put it, John. But I stand by my assessment of it as posted by me on the Old Dogs thread.

Purcell - yes, indeed, sir - aural poetry.

Well, after my re-hearing of the Bax Six I don't think I'll be ordering the 7th, after all. For this ole scribe, one Bax is quite enough, thank you very much. (grin)

More anon. . .
 

Gold Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 4386
Registered: May-04


Made it through the first two movements last night before stopping to clear my brain. I did switch to BBC news to keep the Anglophile sentiment going. (A discussion of the Olympic bid, how spending millions to glad hand the Olympic commitee is not money thrown down the toilet for the loosing nations and how the games should be viewed as bringing the world together. Where was this guy in 1936?) I have to agree this is not the English composer school of "isn't this a nice meadow?" that I'm used to. Folksy wallowing? Limp handshake? Not here! But, good grief, what made him begin where he did? Is the actual first movement missing? So far the only tension I can find is wondering when will this guy back off. He would appear to be giving the public all the bombast he assumes they desired because Mahler was more influential. As of now, guys, I'm not buying what he's selling.

I'm off to read abit more about Mr. Bax in hopes of discovering bombs were dropping around him as he wrote this piece. Could anyone posibly be this worked up over a few dairy cows being bombed?




 

Gold Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 4387
Registered: May-04


"Burnett James took a view opposing Foreman's: "The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that, much though Bax admired Sibelius, it is a red herring. I am convinced the line runs far more accurately from Mahler through Bax to Shostakovich. The famous meeting between Sibelius and Mahler seems to me to put Bax squarely in the Mahler not the Sibelius camp. I think this is important, because the eternal references to Sibelius only work to Bax's disadvantage, since his mind worked in a totally different orbit. Bax, with his confessed Russian affiliations, looks forward to Shostakovich not back to Sibelius, although at the time and for some time afterwards the real connection could not be seen." (58) This may, however, have been meant in Bax's defence; the investigation of the relationship between Bax and Shostakovich is nevertheless a worthwhile task. The march at the beginning of the Fifth Symphony calls to mind many a symphony of Shostakovich, and despite obvious differences in other ways, the formal dependence on Sibelius's Third and Fourth Symphony is obvious. The clarinet melody at the beginning of the symphony is a striking reminder of the beginning of the slow movement of Sibelius' Fifth Symphony, while Bax's melodic characteristics are otherwise perhaps less concise than his Finnish counterpart. Furthermore, the first movement of Sibelius' Fifth Symphony was initially two movements, with a clear separation of a slower and of a faster movement. Similar things can be found too in Bax (e.g. Second Symphony)."

http://www.musicweb-international.com/bax/baxsy3.htm



Say what?





 

Gold Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 4388
Registered: May-04


"Keep tabs on Sir Arnold Bax! Sign up now to receive every bit of juicy, up-to-the-minute news, album release info and much more delivered straight to your inbox!"

http://www.vh1.com/artists/az/bax_arnold/artist.jhtml

Juicy, up to the minute news, eh?





 

Gold Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 4389
Registered: May-04


"I think it was William Morris who sent them to sleep."

John, it may be totally American to say so; but it was Victoria who put them to sleep (or at least to bed).


Williams has something to say. Though I admit I have no idea where my copy of "Sea Symphony" is.


Since everyone here probably knows the English composers of the period better than I do; were there any who did not come from a priviledged life?




 

Gold Member
Username: Larry_r

Naples, FL

Post Number: 1081
Registered: Oct-04
Jan V. - great thoughts, old chap! as in Hear, Hear! Bax=herding wild mustangs. No start, no end.

And as we all know - you can't be a British composer without, uh, "substantial funds." GRIN

Foppery run amuck, my dear sir! And as to poor old Delius - well, you can't expect much except limp hand-wringing when you have Syphilis!

But then, for the good Vaughan Williams, there IS that Sea Symphony. . . hmmm. .
 

Gold Member
Username: John_a

LondonU.K.

Post Number: 3353
Registered: Dec-03
Ah, now, if you want bombs falling, try Vaughan Williams Six.

"But, good grief, what made him begin where he did? Is the actual first movement missing? So far the only tension I can find is wondering when will this guy back off."

Wonderful! He backs off in third movement. But I don't want to spoil it for you.... Jan, the whole thing is only 35 minutes!

"were there any who did not come from a priviledged life? "

Oh come on, Vigne. Inverted snobbery. Have to suffer to be an artist etc. They were all blo--dy priviledged. The Rolling Stones were privileged. What have you got, left-wing loudspeakers...?

OK, to answer the question. William Walton. Just possibly he was not badly off, I'm not sure. He had an unfashionable accent.

Hey, man, you are a Tippett fellow-traveller. Darned Commie. Can I start a thread on "A Child of our Time"? Lets get Bax Six sorted, first!

We can discuss the "Cowpat School" later. Let us agree, for now, that Bax Six is not in it. I don't hear Mahlerian bombast, either. Not so far. I'll listen again at the weekend. I shall also examine it carefully for political correctness.
 

Gold Member
Username: John_a

LondonU.K.

Post Number: 3354
Registered: Dec-03
The radio news here this morning here had a short clip of Mrs Thatcher and the LSO doing Copland's "Lincoln Portrait". Those were the days.
 

Gold Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 4400
Registered: May-04


1) "We can discuss the "Cowpat School" later. Let us agree, for now, that Bax Six is not in it."

2) "I don't hear Mahlerian bombast, either."

***

1) That's what I said, John.

2) That isn't what I said, John.

***

The question of priviledge was just a question.

***

"Hey, man, you are a Tippett fellow-traveller. Darned Commie. Can I start a thread on "A Child of our Time"? Lets get Bax Six sorted, first!"

I'm not clear on what the reference to Tippet has to do with anything, John. I assume you've just called me a Commie though. Any particular reason for that?

You can start a thread on anything you prefer, John, people do it all the time. We came here to discuss the Bax 6th. What do you have to say other than you don't care for my comments so far?





 

Gold Member
Username: John_a

LondonU.K.

Post Number: 3357
Registered: Dec-03
I like your comments so far, Jan.

No offence. Feeble attempt at humor. Apologies.
 

Gold Member
Username: Artk

Albany, Oregon USA

Post Number: 1065
Registered: Feb-05
Jan I find your comments on the 20th century English composers interesting. Fortunately for me I am not listening to the music in the same way as you are. It does not concern me if the composer advanced the music If I enjoy the picture he/she paints.

I too love the Russians, Scandinavians, and Germans of that period and own much of their output. Later I am particularly fond of the Poles.

For me the English composers of the period RVW, Bax, Bliss, Elgar, Walton etc had a way of making it perfectly clear what English (British Isles) life meant to them and painted very clear pictures of what this looked like to them physically and emotionally. This is particularly interesting considering the English reputation (desrved or not)for not being emotionally available or of being "aloof" if you will.

These composers painted in both broad strokes as in the Bax "6th" or Bliss' "Colour Symphony" as well with more subltety and as with the chamber music of Bliss or playfulness as with Malcolm Arnold's "Dances".

Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Sibelius, to name just a few have produced some of the greatest music in the western tradition. But it does not rob me of my ability to enjoy less significant pieces.

Speaking of Russian has anyone here heard the Naxos flim score of "Red River" by Dimitri Tiomkin? Spectacular recording, absolute must have at budget price.
 

Gold Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 4401
Registered: May-04


I will look for the Tiomkin. An excellent composer in my book. He and B. Hermann did fantastic film work.
http://www.mfiles.co.uk/composers/Dimitri-Tiomkin.htm


***


I do listen to music that didn't move the world. Just not that often, I suppose. Tiomkin and Hermann didn't really alter the world of music since their influence is today difficult to find in the arena where they won the most acclaim. I find both to be challenging listens though. The orchestration; the juxtaposition of sounds, tempos and concepts; and the rearrangement of traditional ideas appeals to me. I find it difficult to walk through a room with the music of either man playing and not stop to listen.

Unlike some of the particpants on the forum I am not a classical music lover. I am a classical music "liker". I do not look for the influences of composers on one another. I have a few composers who have caught my attention enough to know more than a passing amount about their life and art. What I look for is the relationship of the artist to their time and history. My predilection is to artists who challenged their history and generally those who set out to reshape their history. To my way of thinking, that is what art is about. To be passive about art is to ignore the influence and power of art.

That doesn't mean I don't realize there are a great many artists who prefer to create things that are "pretty". I live in a city where art is almost always "pretty". "Pretty" has its place. I just don't go to that place very often. And when I try to take friends to art that isn't pretty, I am reminded that most people really, really like pretty. I'm also reminded it is, for the most part, much easier to do "pretty" than it is to do otherwise.




That is generally my problem with the 20c/ English composers. With few exceptions, they ignored how difficult it was to not be pretty all the time. They ignored the gathering storms of the First World War and the Second also. They ignored the economic tumult of the time they lived in. I hear their music and think of a bucolic life of pleasure and priviledge by the very people Oscar Wilde had ridiculed so well and so often only a few years earlier. They peeked at Beardsley and discussed Frued as if he were a roast beef. While Paris and Berlin were rioting over manifestos regarding the nature of art, English composers were "pretty". So when I read of "the English School" of composers, I am not sure what they were studying.



Now here is one 35 minute symphony by Arnold Bax. A composer I know nothing about. It begins at a point where I would have spent ten ot more minutes with a Russian composer to arrive at. It stays at that point for the majority of the work. This is a case of having nowhere to go once you've laid out that this is the high point. Because of this technique it is difficult for me to be taken anywhere with this music. I want a Stravinsky collapse into near silence, a Shostakovich moment of reflection on what has been wrought or a Holst examination of how complex the most violent moments can be. So far, I've found none of that.

This is not Mahler's bombast as far as I know Mahler (which is not much). Mahler takes me to a point and drives home the emotion and the drive that gets me there. Bax, by contrast, just says, "I'm headed there if you want to watch." Well, I get the feeling there were quite a few who just didn't care to watch.

But, if they had and if Bax had said, "Look over there, look at the world around you. Do you see what I see?"; those that chose to come along for the trip might have seen some things they chose to ignore. Does every piece of music have to be a social commentary? No. But when the world is screaming for attention, this is like letting a child throw a tantrum and just ignoring them.






 

Gold Member
Username: Artk

Albany, Oregon USA

Post Number: 1066
Registered: Feb-05
Geez, Jan I'm sure glad I can enjoy the musical world in which the composer wants to take me. It would be difficult for me to have to listen as you do. I want to enjoy music for it's sake rather than looking for some geopolitical meaning in it. If it's there as was so often the case with Shostakovich then ofcourse it's important to understand that. But if not, so be it.

I remember what my Father told me about his experiences fighting alongside the English in WWII. His experiences echo what I hear in English music. The ability to focus on what's beautiful in life in the face of all of it's ugliness.

I know what you mean when you say Bax starts where it takes a russian composer 10 minutes to get to (remember this is just one of his symphonies) but it is exactly that ability of the Brits to get to the crux that I so enjoy.

So what is your favorite music Jan? Lord knows I love jazz. What are your desert island tunes?
 

Gold Member
Username: John_a

LondonU.K.

Post Number: 3361
Registered: Dec-03
I am with Art, "just listen and enjoy" up to a point. But I also think it helps a lot to understand and reflect on the times and the circumstances.

Jan ticked me off, rightly, for wandering off the topic, but there is a serious mistake in Jan's otherwise wise perspective on dilletante upper-class Brits.

It is RVW. He was political. He served in WW I. He was a conscientious objector in WW II, which cost him honour and recognition. (So many who lived through WW I became pacificists).

RVW was misunderstood, even by his contemporaries, and his reticence prevented him from arguing with them.

Jan wrote: "That is generally my problem with the 20c/ English composers. With few exceptions, they ignored how difficult it was to not be pretty all the time. They ignored the gathering storms of the First World War and the Second also. "

Perhaps RVW was one of Jan's exceptions. Nothing could be further from the truth in RVW's case. I wrote directly, but will now post it.

I think "cowpat school" was applied firstly to Vaughan Williams 3 - the "pastoral symphony". I heard a very good case on the radio a few weeks ago that the fields were not in the Cotswolds or somewhere, but Flanders and Ypres, and the Somme Valley, some of which VW saw first-hand. If you listen to the "bugle call" motif etc it makes much more sense. Also the last movement; a wasteland. I understand from the Shostakovich No 8 sleeve note that DS was roundly condemned for not celebrating impending victory, therein, in 1944. It has the same sort of ending. I think they both understood the human cost, and weighed it more than anything else. I think they had a lot in common.

There you are, Art - you are right: no-one needs to know that.

But go back to Vaughan Williams third symphony and see if you can hear it in the same way again. There are no buttercups and daisies - or cowpats, "Pretty" it is not.
 

Gold Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 4407
Registered: May-04


Short post - I hope


I don't take all music this seriously, Art. I find it difficult to find political motivations in Chopin or Bach. They may be there, but I've not gone looking for them. However, when I approach an artist of any sort who worked after the Industrial Revolution took place, I am interested in how they wished the world to see their art. Until that time there were no arts for the people. Art was the venue of the priviledged few. If your livelyhood depepnds on pleasing those keeping you alive and in business, you will learn to please the keeper. That is the allure of Shostakovich and Weill. (Though the question persists as to how much dissent was actually contained in Shostakovich's music and how much has been inserted with conquering hindsight.)

At the turn of the 20c/ the arts were reaching new audiences and had found new motivations and directions. I can find no more tumultous time in the history of art to view with a chaundiced eye. As I said, it is my predilection to look at artists of this period in the historical context they lived. I also enjoy Copland whose politics were suffused within his music in a entirely different manner. But the politics of Copland are still there to be heard and fit supremely with the whole WPA project of his times.

On the other hand there is the music of Robert Johnson and the jazz of Count Basie that fueled an undercurrent of discontent in America at the same time. This genre spawned the eventual rise of a culture from everything I can see. I really do enjoy music which pushes back a curtain, though I personally find a few pretenders in the crowd. I'll have to think a bit to give a Desert Island list. I would probably find it difficult to limit myself that way.

Several people on the forum know I'm a fan of Elvis and Eric Clapton. What I own from their catalogues alone would keep me entertained on a desert island. Shostakovich is on the player more than any other single classical composer. The Quartets and jazz music he wrote would be on my list.


 

Gold Member
Username: Artk

Albany, Oregon USA

Post Number: 1067
Registered: Feb-05
Jan, I believe that we look at music similarly but perhaps give different weight to its various elements.

I too believe that where possible we should listen to a piece of music holistically. But when listening it often becomes apparent that we can't possibly know what was on the mind of the composer when he/she wrote a given piece of music. Even when he/she reports to us we cannot be sure whether that report is romantic hindsight or truth. That is why when I listen to music I just give myself over to it.

BTW the priveleged are people too. They bleed and suffer anguish just as the poor folk do. No one had more fun thumbing his nose at society than did JS Bach. Often pressed for time JS would use his tea house jingles in his important religious works. Hey, whatever works.

Music is a wonderful thing. It's good that it means different things to each of us. After all isn't that the point.
 

Gold Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 4412
Registered: May-04


"That is why when I listen to music I just give myself over to it."

With few exceptions, I assume that is what the composer would prefer.



 

Gold Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 4413
Registered: May-04


"They bleed and suffer anguish just as the poor folk do."

?


 

Gold Member
Username: John_a

LondonU.K.

Post Number: 3364
Registered: Dec-03
Jan,

I spent a bit of time today trying, without success, to find the words, by W.H. Auden, of "Summer night" from Britten's "Spring Symphony". I think it sums up a view of the idolent and complacent Brit "upper crust", oblivious to events that shake the real world. I do not have my LP of that here. It has André Previn and the LSO and is on EMI, I think.

Further to my comments about his Symphony No. 3, try also Vaughan Williams "Dona Nobis Pacem".
 

Silver Member
Username: John_s

Columbus, Ohio US

Post Number: 358
Registered: Feb-04
Gentlemen, let me get back on the subject for a minute. I wrote this two days ago and I'm not throwing this away.


Back in the mid-seventies, I heard some Bax at a friend's. Even though I had some music education, I'd never heard of him. Don't remember what piece it was as it made absolutely no impression then, not only due to the reserved nature of the music but also because I was listening to his new speakers more than the music--Walsh/Ohm Fs, most likely. I forgot about Bax for the next thirty years until there was a discussion about English composers on this forum.

John, your observation on judging RVW by hearing only 'Greensleeves' is apt. The opening of this symphony was certainly a surprise. No pastoral folksy sounds here, and certainly not what was vaguely remembered from years ago. The movement relentlessly seesaws between powerful full orchestra and relatively quiet sections. Each section has its own interesting color. But who can blame the casual listener for concluding this first movement lacks cohesion? The music seems to be a loose confederation of flying parts warping through space with no apparent destination. Stronger themes--there are two in this sonata form--with more deliberate development would help here. That, along with fewer startling "wake up" outbursts by the composer. Still, this first movement is surprisingly feral for music written by a proper English gentleman in 1935.

The last two movements are another matter. The second obviously offers respite from the first movement. Here, the ebb and flow if this music is more gentle and sensible. One can hear some hints of the German romantics (more R. Strauss than Mahler) and some of the delicate open fifth and whole tone harmonies of the French impressionists.

The third movement is the real gem of this work, in my opinion. It could stand alone in performance very well, I think. Not only is the main theme the strongest of the work, but the movement also hangs together better as a whole...even though it too is sectional: intro, scherzo, trio, scherzo, and epilogue.

It seems to me Bax's main strength is tonal texture and color. There are many moments on this disc one could be reminded of movie soundtrack music. Atmospheric tonal textures are the main business of movie composers and Bax might have been very successful in Hollywood in his day, imo. He did do some film work later in life, most notably David Lean's superlative (by all accounts) version of "Oliver Twist" (1948). I have not seen it.

It's been tons of fun digging into this recording and I also thank Art for bringing Sir Arnold's name up.

 

Gold Member
Username: Artk

Albany, Oregon USA

Post Number: 1074
Registered: Feb-05
A link relative to the Britten and RVW pieces that you mentioned John.

http://www.southamptonphil.org/concdetail.php?id=20040508
 

Gold Member
Username: John_a

LondonU.K.

Post Number: 3365
Registered: Dec-03
Thank you Art;-

It was that link, which I got from "Google" looking for the words, that reminded me about Don Nobis Pacem.

JOHN S;- THANK YOU!

Possibly you also heard "Tintagel" all those years ago! I reacted to Bax no.6 in the same way, with total surprise. I also thought "film music" at several points. But we have to remember it was written in 1935. Anyone who has not heard Vaughan Williams will also think "film music" in places but look at the dates of the compostions and you will see why this is, and how wide the influences were.

Thank you for bring us back to Bax, and apologies for wandering off. I found Jan's comments provocative. I should start a thread on the cowpat school.

I intend to listen again this weekend. And will write here only about Bax Six. Art, this was a good idea. Many thanks. We now have first comments from the three of us who promised to listen, but I sure there is more to say.
 

Gold Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 4419
Registered: May-04


Let me ask, given J.S.'s comment referring to the first movement as being "feral"; where was Bax in relation to Williams at this point in time. I gather Williams was the more produced composer. Can this be seen as a reaction to Williams (and possibly to other English composers of the day) and what Bax wanted people to think of his works? I've seen no comparison or link between Williams and Bax, though they were working at the same time. These two English composers can't have worked without knowledge of each other. Williams has become the more influential and remembered of the two. Any "Ralph - envy" here?


J.S. - I would agree the first movement is a "loose confederation". In this case "theme" would be a few notes (what is it; six?) strung together. I hear no overarching theme of ideas but rather what the liner notes seem to indicate is a composite of ideas from earlier works. I shall listen again also.




 

Gold Member
Username: John_a

LondonU.K.

Post Number: 3373
Registered: Dec-03
I listened again, and I like it more. I agree with JS about the third movement. There is an opening, slightly irregular and chromatic theme on clarinet that returns in various guises. The sleeve note goes on about Sibelius, but I don't hear it, myself, any more than I hear Mahler.

Sorry I cannot fill in on the relation of Vaughan Williams and Bax. RVW was a bit older, born 1872. That's all I know.

I have posted before on this: RVW's brilliant and moving settings of Walt Whitman, well-known American, and poet of the Civil War. I think we need some more of that vision at this time.

I promised not to wander off Bax. Did he write anything for voices/choirs?
 

Gold Member
Username: John_a

LondonU.K.

Post Number: 3374
Registered: Dec-03
BTW This is an audio forum and I wish to say that the Naxos disc is a first-class sound recording, in my estimation. It inclines me to think CD was not so bad, after all! If we get around to it, there are about twenty Naxos titles with the same material on CD, SACD, and DVD-A (including a performance of RVW's "Sea Symphony"). I should like to hear Bax's Sixth Symphony in the other formats, to compare.
 

Gold Member
Username: Artk

Albany, Oregon USA

Post Number: 1156
Registered: Feb-05
Yes he did but I can't say that I have heard any.

http://www.karadar.com/Works/bax.html
 

Gold Member
Username: John_a

LondonU.K.

Post Number: 3403
Registered: Dec-03
Thanks, Art!
 

Silver Member
Username: John_s

Columbus, Ohio US

Post Number: 362
Registered: Feb-04
Just to add a couple things to this discussion. First, I agree John; this recording seems to be very good, with excellent clarity and dynamics. It seems unlikely, given the volume of recordings available, that the entire Naxos catalog is of equal quality. But if so they are a real treasure.

Apparently, Bax enjoyed some notoriety during his most creative years, the 1920s-30s. He was knighted less than two years after the premiere of the 6th in 1935, so none of his contemporaries could not have known his work. Indeed, about that time, William Walton began his first symphony to "knock Bax off the map." Some critics of the day dubbed Bax as 'Elgar's successor' in reaction to his orchestral composition, especially his symphonies. But is also clear that he lived his life as a composer under the shadow of Vaughn Williams, and Bax's place in English music history hasn't changed much since. One can only imagine how sad Bax's long-time girlfriend, pianist Harriet Cohen, must have been to see his music almost completely forgotten for the fourteen years she lived after his death.

I've re-listened to the work a few times, especially the first movement. It's growing on me, but in the end it still is unfulfilling. One walks away from this first movement longing to remember what it was all about....why that is I cannot say specifically, except that the movement needs stronger themes to build upon and a more unified sense of purpose. I do feel his motivation/inspiration here comes from early Stravinsky, rather than from any of his English contemporaries.

I will hear more of Bax, especially his 1st and 3rd Symphonies, which some critics say are the best.

BTW, Ken Russell produced a TV drama he called "The Secret Life of Arnold Bax" (1hr, 1992) with Russell himself playing the part of Bax. I'm sure it was very bad TV, but I would still like to see it to find out what the 'secret' was.
 

Gold Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 4499
Registered: May-04


Makes you wonder if Harriet, his long time girlfriend, knew.
 

Gold Member
Username: John_a

LondonU.K.

Post Number: 3414
Registered: Dec-03
...played by Glenda Jackson.

http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt0105339/

Ken Russell made films about people making films about.....

Perhaps the secret was that Bax was not aware that Russell had him in his sights.

Yes, Stravinsky is close, I think, John.
 

Gold Member
Username: Artk

Albany, Oregon USA

Post Number: 1226
Registered: Feb-05
BTW, many Naxos recordings over the last half dozen years or so are "that" good. Some are not. I'm consistently amazed at the quality of the recordings and performances on the Naxos "budget" label.
 

Silver Member
Username: John_s

Columbus, Ohio US

Post Number: 366
Registered: Feb-04
Also BTW, I've borrowed a friend's copy of the Bax No. 3 (London Phil/Bryden Thomson Chandos 8454). Wow, this work is very serious and better than the 6th, imo.
 

Gold Member
Username: John_a

LondonU.K.

Post Number: 3445
Registered: Dec-03
I agree about Naxos, Art. The actual recordings are always done by hired recording engineers; there is no "Naxos sound". Perhaps this is why they are variable but generally very good. Then Naxos occasionally buys a catalogue. The was a good label called "Collins Classics" which went bankrupt and many excellent recordings have resurfaced on Naxos. A Child of our Time and Britten's War Requiem are examples. The sound on the latter has a few problems, I think, awesome as is the performance and the work.

JOHN S.

Bryden Thomson was a great guy, and Chandos is a good label. Unfortunately there were some sound problems with their Bryden Thomson Vaughan Williams symphony cycle, which I have.

I am up for getting Bax No. 3, listening, and starting a thread on that. Anyone interested?
 

Gold Member
Username: John_a

LondonU.K.

Post Number: 3459
Registered: Dec-03
Thanks, John, for the thread:

Arnold Bax Symphony No. 3.
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