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CHAN 10446
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CHAN 10446

Bax: Tone Poems, Volume 2

The Classical Shop
release date: April 2008

Recorded in 24 Bit / 96Khz
album available as a Studio Master
Originally recorded in 2007


BBC Philharmonic

Vernon Handley


Studio 7, New Broadcasting House, Manchester


Brian Pidgeon


Stephen Rinker

Vanessa Nuttall

(Assistant: The Happy Forest)

Denise Else

(Assistant: other works)

Record Label


Orchestral & Concertos

Total Time - 75:47
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Three Northern Ballads

1 First Northern Ballad (1927, orchestrated 1931) 9:59
  To Basil Cameron  
  Tempo moderato - Allegro moderato con fuoco -  
2 Second Northern Ballad (orchestrated 1933-34) 14:02
  To Adam Carse  
  Moderato (alla breve) - Poco più mosso -  
3 Prelude for a Solemn Occasion (Third Northern Ballad) (1927, orchestrated 1933) 8:16
  Maestoso. Moderato - Listesso tempo - Molto moderato  

Nympholept (1912, orchestrated 1915)

  Nature Poem for Orchestra  
  To Constant Lambert  
  'Enter these enchanted woods,  
  You who dare'  
  Moderately slow - Largamente e nobilmente -  
premiere recording

Red Autumn (1912)

  Orchestrated by Graham Parlett (2006)  
  Moderato - Stormily - Andante tranquillo - Tempo I -  

The Happy Forest (1914, orchestrated 1922)

  Nature Poem  
  To Eugene Goossens  
  Vivacious and fantastic - Un pochettino più lento -  

Into the Twilight (1908)

  'Eire' No. 1  
  after the poem of the same name by W.B. Yeats  
  Lento - Un poco più mosso (Andante con moto) -  
Volume 1 (CHAN 10362) was nominated for 2007 BBC Music Award
This is the premiere recording of Red Autumn
Three Northern Ballads are here recorded together for the first time

On Volume 1, International Record Review wrote: ‘This is the greatest single Bax orchestral record I have heard: the orchestral playing is magnificent throughout, of a quality that this music has been crying out for for decades but which it has never received – until now… over and above the excellence of this fine orchestra is the profound understanding and musicianship of Vernon Handley’s conducting.’

For Bax there were several periods of intense creativity when he committed to paper a variety of works in the form of piano scores, and orchestrated them when required. Many of the tone poems performed here were conceived in this fashion, including Red Autumn, which here receives its premiere recording. Originally a solo piano piece, it was then arranged for two pianos by Bax himself. In 2006 the Sir Arnold Bax Trust commissioned Graham Parlett to orchestrate the work in Bax’s early period style specifically for this recording. Heard in its orchestral dress it immediately reveals its family resemblance to the tone poems Nympholept and November Woods, composed round the same time.

Vernon Handley brings together for the first time three orchestral movements to which the collective title ‘Three Northern Ballads’ has been given. They date from the late 1920s and early 1930s, breathe much the same atmosphere, and Handley is keen to promote them as forming a unified, almost symphonic, whole. The first, which Bax composed and gave the name ‘Northern Ballad’ in 1927, was followed by a second Ballad, orchestrated in 1931. The third, formally entitled Prelude for a Solemn Occasion, appears to evoke a Sibelian musical landscape, and occupies the same world as the composer’s Sixth Symphony, which followed almost immediately. When Bax orchestrated the third piece he was taking his usual winter sojourn at Morar, Inverness-shire, and in a letter to a friend wrote, ‘It suggests an atmosphere of the dark north and perhaps dark happenings among the mists’. The nature painting in the work certainly calls to mind the wilds of Scotland.

Joining this quasi-symphonic work, in addition to Red Autumn, are three further early tone poems. Into the Twilight dates from Bax’s first intensive period of composition, the years immediately preceding World War I, and originated as the prelude to a planned Irish opera, Deirdre. It received only one performance during Bax’s lifetime, in 1909, conducted by Thomas Beecham. Nympholept which followed was the work in which Bax fully achieved the impressionistic technique of his first maturity. It suggests the pagan natural world in which Bax was so deeply interested. The Happy Forest, follows a pastoral short story by Herbert Farjeon, and is an Arcadian evocation much like Nympholept. It was first performed in 1923 under Eugene Goossens, its dedicatee.

Vernon Handley, who has known Bax’s music for almost 50 years and in recent years has given us a five-disc set of Bax’s symphonies that was universally welcomed and acclaimed by press and critics. (CHAN 10122)

"…this is the version to acquire"

BBC Music Magazine

"Vernon Handley’s revelatory Bax odyssey for Chandos comes up trumps again with this generous feast spanning a quarter of a century from the enchanted Donegal glens of the youthful Into the twilight (1908) to the rugged, wintry seascape of the Second Northern ballad, completed in 1934... if I encounter a more rewarding issue all year, I shall be surprised."

Gramophone Editor’s Choice

"Handley’s command of this unfamiliar music is wonderfully assured; the BBC Philharmonic play superbly for him, and it is hard to imagine anyone else doing it better or with more commitment."

The Guardian

" ... Handley’s rapport with this music is so satisfying and convincing it makes this release self-recommending, one to delight Baxians and audiophiles alike. I would not wish to limit appreciation to those who already have the Baxian bug, for I cannot imagine a music lover drawn to Debussy, Ravel, Scriabin, Sibelius (and maybe Wagner) not responding enthusiastically to the musical wonders here."

International Record Review

"Handley Champions Bax as Beecham did Delius. The excellent Chandos series pairing the former continues with seven richly nuanced, nimbly danced and sensitively phrased performances of tone poems composed just before, and orchestrated most just after the First World War. The BBC Philharmonic revels in Bax’s subtle instrumental variety - the nervous harp in Into the Twilight, the gurgling bass-clarinet in Nympholept that Handley summons like a snake-charmer. A sense of magic pervades much of the disc. Few conductors have found so much in Bax before, but many will in future."

The Times

The orchestral playing is superb and the recorded sound detailed and rich. I am new to Bax but on the evidence of this will be returning for more. D Guest
D Guest

S Fitzpatrick

B Jorgensen

Does one really have to review a disc that is this good and has been reviewed several times. Well YES as it is now in glorious HiRez sound. The same performaces that others have raved about actually sound even more convincing.They are hardly mainstream works by somebody not even considered in the forefront as a composer? Quite a variety and way better than the awful sounding cds issued earlier.Hardly surprising.Chandos ,How about the rest even the original analogues.
D Raffells