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  • Bax: Symphony No. 5; The Tale the Pine-Trees Knew
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Bax: Symphony No. 5; The Tale the Pine-Trees Knew

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Audio CD, June 13, 2000
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Editorial Reviews

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Yet another British music triumph for Naxos, David Lloyd-Jones, and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. Bearing a dedication to Sibelius, the fifth symphony of 1932 is one of Bax's most personal, closely reasoned utterances, its bardic splendor, slumbering tragedy, and epic thrust all most convincingly conveyed here. Not only is Lloyd-Jones scrupulously faithful to both the letter and spirit of the score, but he also has the happy knack of alighting on precisely the right tempo, and he never allows Bax's argument to sag in the way that occasionally afflicts Bryden Thomson's rival interpretation with the London Philharmonic for Chandos. What's more, he encourages some sensitive and sprightly playing from the RSNO (which certainly seems to enjoy making this mighty work's acquaintance). Completed the year before the symphony, the wintry tone poem The Tale the Pine-Trees Knew makes an apt coupling. Lloyd-Jones's performance possesses a clean-limbed vigor that contrasts strikingly with Thomson's more leisurely, wonderfully atmospheric view on Chandos. Astonishingly, Naxos has been sitting on these fine recordings for more than four years; let's just hope we don't have to wait as long again for future installments in Lloyd-Jones's absorbing Bax series. --Andrew Achenbach

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Product Details

  • Conductor: Lloyd-Jones
  • Composer: Bax
  • Audio CD (June 13, 2000)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Naxos
  • Run Time: 58 minutes
  • ASIN: B00004TARU
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #236,289 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Thomas F. Bertonneau on October 4, 2000
Format: Audio CD
The key to understanding the work of Sir Arnold Bax (1883-1953) comes from an episode in his childhood as described in his late-life autobiography "Farewell My Youth." Returning home with his family from a country outing when he was five or six, he happened to see the sun as it set behind a forested hill, and the spectacle of beauty (the sunlight refracted through the great mass of leaves) about to disappear (for the sunset is an ephemeral thing) impressed him deeply. When the last rays had withdrawn below the horizon and night had come on, Bax writes, he felt inexpressibly sad. Whether it is the solar primary about to quench itself in the West or the rural lifeways of Scotland and Ireland dissolving before the relentless march of industrial civilization - or his own departed youth - loss is the central, lyrical, experience in just about every important score by this imaginative and talented composer. That so lyrical a creativity should have taken up the rather abstract form of the symphony might strike one as unexpected; but then Bax went about writing his symphonies at just the time when the avant-garde had declared the form dead. Although record companies have given us sporadic attestations of Bax's symphonic achievement over the years (the Third ranks as the most-recorded), there has so far been only a single integral cycle, the one currently available on Chandos under Bryden Thomson. But the enterpreneurs at Naxos are in the midst of providing, at long last, a second such traversal, three installments of which have appeared. I confine myself here to the Fifth (1932), the most recent of these releases. Depending on the critic, either the Fifth or the Sixth (1934) is the peak of Bax's cycle of seven.Read more ›
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By K. DANIELSON on August 8, 2000
Format: Audio CD
Ever since Chandos released their set of Bax symphonies on Chandos back in the 80's, I have felt that Bax was one of the great underrated and overlooked composers. Thanks to Naxos, who seem to blow the dust off so many forgotten classical masters, we now have a rival version of several Bax works in modern digital sound. I agree with the reviewer from Amazon. This recording is even BETTER than Bryden Thomsen's recording for Chandos. Never once did the tension and drama drop during the performance. An excellent recording, and an excellent way to introduce yourself to the work of Arnold Bax. Anyone at all interested in Sibelius or Vaughan Williams will not be dissappointed. At this cost, what do you have to lose? Get this!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Santiago Barcon on August 4, 2000
Format: Audio CD
I got the symphony 3 and then became aware of how good Bax is.
This recording with the same director and orchestra makes a great continuation on the Bax series on Naxos, that I am looking forward to get complete.
Symphony 5 is more mature, and being dedicated to Sibelius, with similarities to this composer. I also heard Wagner in a symphonic way.
As a plus The tale the Pine-Trees knew is a wonderful symphonic poem.
Recording is excellent and, I am never tired of stress it, at Naxos prices a must.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By G.D. TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 14, 2010
Format: Audio CD
Naxos's cycle of the symphonies of Arnold Bax with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra under David Lloyd-Jones is one of the greatest achievements of their impressive catalogue, with performances that can easily match and often surpass the eminently impressive Bryden Thomson ones (I have to admit that I haven't yet heard the celebrated Handley cycle). While the fifth symphony might not quite be on the level of the first, third or sixth musically, it is still a gorgeous work of fantastic, wintry colors, memorable themes, luminous, lush textures and dramatic sweep, and given the scintillating advocacy it receives here this release is something of a must.

The work is somewhat darker and more pugnacious than Bax's previous symphonies, and the affinities to Sibelius even more audible (it was dedicated to Sibelius) - for instance, the opening of the first movement comes straight out of the more brooding sections of the second movement of Sibelius's fifth. The outer movements are generally tumultuous and thundering displays of gritty, tempestuous, chromatic power - harmonically they are (the first movement at least is) more abrasive than most of Bax's work, although they never leave the late-romantic world of lush atmospheres and glittering colors. All of it receives taut, powerful readings from Lloyd-Jones and the Scottish players. The central movement is, however, a grand romantic statement based on stirring thematic material, and the performances are utterly convincing, shimmering and glistening and opulent.

The coupling, The Tale the Pine-Trees Knew, is also one of Bax's most Sibelian utterances, darkly dramatic and atmospheric, and again the performances are utterly winning; vividly colorful, spirited and rhythmically vibrant. The sound quality is very good as well, ensuring an unqualified recommendation for this fabulous release.
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