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Cat. No. CHAN 10122(5) Price: £31.5 No. of discs: 5
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CHAN 10122 - Bax: The Symphonies
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Available From: 13 October 2003
"Sir Arnold Bax wrote his cycle of seven symphonies between 1921 and 1939. In his younger days he had not set out to be a symphonist, and if anyone had then predicted his future career, Bax would doubtless have been scornful of the notion that he could turn to such an old-fashioned genre in the bright new artistic world immediately following the end of World War I. Yet in 1921, when he wrote what he headed ‘Third Piano Sonata’, he quickly realised that he had composed a symphony. He orchestrated it, writing a new slow movement conceived in symphonic terms, and made a big splash with it in December 1922. For the rest of the 1920s audiences thought of it as the Bax symphony, but he was soon working on a second, quickly followed by a third during the winter of 1928–29. The remaining four symphonies followed during the 1930s.

Vernon Handley was conducting the works of Sir Arnold Bax during the 1960s when the composer’s work was very much out of favour with the musical establishment. Over the years a Bax symphony conducted by Handley became something special, but apart from an isolated recording of the Fourth with the Guildford Philharmonic, he never recorded any of them. Yet one of Handley’s lifetime ambitions has been to record his view of what he came to regard as a cornerstone of British music in the twentieth century, an ambition achieved with this set.

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Reviews

"... Vernon Handley is in total sympathy with Bax’s muse and his direction is authoratitive as well as idiomatic. Superb sound from the Chandos and BBC engineers. We would not be without this set."
The Penguin Guide - 1000 Greatest Classical Recordings 2011-12

The set has been a labour of love for Vernon Handley - one of the high points of his career. Im hoping that this set, which is the product of 50 years study, will invite people to listen that little bit more often to these wonderful immense works.
Classic FM Magazine 'Disc of the Month'

The BBC Philharmonic under Vernon Handley recently performed Baxs Symphonies Nos 6 and 8 in Manchester, to great critical acclaim:

…a rare occasion of exploration and discovery. Perhaps this anniversary will allow Baxs music to emerge from the shadow of Vaughan Williams. On this evidence, Handley and BBCPO are incomparably equipped to make that happen.

The Guardian

'The BBC Philharmonic's playing is magnificent throughout, while Handley never loses his grip on the music's forceful logic. Works that in some hands, and to some ears, can seem rhapsodic, he reveals as integrally symphonic, for all their big-boned Romantic gestures.'
The Telegraph

In every way Handley has now produced the definitive Bax series - surely beyond criticism.
Gramophone 'Take Five'

Truth to tell, Im still reeling from the impact of this magnificent set; its insights are copious, Chandos layout is ideal (with none of the symphonies split between discs) and the price is tempting too.
Gramophone (Critic's Choice)

The set has been a labour of love for Vernon Handley - one of the high points of his career. 'I'm hoping that this set, which is the product of 50 years' study, will invite people to listen that little bit more often to these wonderful immense works'.'
Classic FM Magazine 'Disc of the Month'

Handley and the BBC Philharmonic strain all their musical sinews to bring out every detail of these highly wrought and texturally complex works, and Handleys command of structure and pacing is majestic.
The Guardian

'These are interpretations by a conductor who has lived with this music and who is fully at home in the composer's musical world. Beautifully played and recorded, this is the sort of thing that Chandos does incomparably.' 'Truth to tell, I'm still reeling from the impact of this magnificent set; its insights are copious, Chandos' layout is ideal (with none of the symphonies split between discs) and the price is tempting too.'
Gramophone Critic's Choice

Vernon Handley is the ideal conductor for Bax: he understands the music like no other, and it breathes perfectly in his hands.
Fanfare on CHAN 9715 (Bax)

It is a tremendous achievement, the crowning glory of Vernon Handleys dedication to British music in general and to this composer in particular.
Sir Arnold Bax Gramophone 'Take Five'

The BBC Philharmonics playing is magnificent throughout, while Handley never loses his grip on the musics forceful logic. Works that in some hands, and to some ears, can seem rhapsodic, he reveals as integrally symphonic, for all their big-boned Romantic gestures.
The Telegraph

Handley, the BBC Philharmonic, executive producer Brian Pidgeon and the Chandos engineers give us sonic glories in spades. These discs transport us to windswept coastlines, the ocean floor, pagan dances and the nobility of love, defeat, death and triumph… This is a wonderful set of compelling haunting music; it deserves to spread joy not just over Christmas but for life.
The Times

Every now and then, a series of recordings appears that changes the music world just a little, prompts a re-evaluation, draws us towards repertory we might otherwise have ignored… These probing interpretations venture beyond the surfaces to the musics inner workings. Handley is the ideal guide, the BBC Philharmonic the ideal instrument for the job and you also get Tintagel, a premiere recording of Rogues Comedy Overture and a revealing recorded interview with Andrew McGregor. Superb sound, too.
The Independent

…this splended Fingerhut and Handley performance brings a reassessment and the works strengths, particularly its appealing slow movement, are revealed.
BBC Music Magazine on CHAN 9715 (Bax)

Handleys readings are generally volatile and urgent, and he brings out some of the musics violence and incipient touches of modernism better that his rivals.
BBC Music Magazine (Performance: maximum rating 5*)

 

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