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Bax: Symphony No. 7/ Four Songs
01 Aug 1988
Originally recorded in 1987
London Philharmonic Orchestra
All Saints' Church, Tooting, London
Orchestral & Concertos
Vocal & Song
Total Time - 69:47
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Symphony No. 7
Lento - In Legendary Mood (Più Mosso) - Tempo I
Theme and Variations (Allegro - Andante - Vivace - Epilogue [Sereno])
Four Songs for Tenor and Orchestra
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This seems to me the most truly symphonic of Bax's seven works in this genre. As if he had finally worked through all the conflicting impulses between "free invention" and "strict form", and now achieved the perfect synthesis. We know that Bax was a mature composer (about 40) when he wrote his first essay in the symphonic metier; but this should not inhibit us from ascribing to him a growth towards greater mastery of the form, which I think is clearly visible, not least in his thematic invention. Some of the latter can be unflattering to symphonic development and tends to be productive of perfunctory episodes, which can be found in all six of the preceding symphonies. Not so here. Not only are the themes perfectly tailored to symphonic development, but the orchestration is gloriously apt without drawing attention to itself (as it frequently does in Bax's scores). Like all his symphonies, this is 3 movement, all rather long; but attention never flags because Bax managed to keep the symphonic argument going; and for once the long set of variations at the end do not taper off midway for sentimental interludes (in my books a bad habit of this composer). All told, this is a surprisigly "stern" symphony, with the pulse of invention rigorously maintained and dovetailed beautifully throughout. I won't say much about the songs. Some, maybe many listeners will find them congenial, I don't. My sense of Bax's vocal line is that it is somewhat laboured. But they are well sung and the orchestra shines once again. It remains to be said that the performance, as always from this source, does full justice to this rich tapestry, and the same can be said for the recording. I for am grateful that Chandos eschew close miking and allow the air to bring the sound to me.
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