This is another of their deleted recordings which Chandos have
made available online as an mp3 recording for £6.
The First and Seventh Symphonies have never enjoyed
the same exposure as his central symphonic output, Numbers
Two to Six. In the case of the Seventh the neglect is understandable
since, by the time of its composition Bax had been replaced
in popular esteem as the successor to Elgar by Vaughan Williams
and Walton. Yet, though Bax’s imagination seems to have been
burning at a lower intensity, the Seventh is still well worth
hearing at the hands of Bryden Thomson, David Lloyd-Jones
(Naxos), Raymond Leppard (Lyrita) or Vernon Handley, whose
more recent box set of all the Bax Symphonies has ousted this
recording from the main Chandos catalogue.
Comparisons with Lloyd-Jones, Leppard and Handley
show that, as usual, Thomson’s timings on paper seem slow,
especially in the second movement where Leppard’s 14:06, Handley’s
13:32 and Lloyd-Jones’s 12:45 contrast markedly with Thomson’s
16:23 – and, indeed, with each other. Only in the finale is
Thomson (14:09) faster than Lloyd-Jones (14:41).
If you have read my reviews of the other Bryden
Thomson recordings of Bax’s Symphonies, you will not be surprised
to discover that I found his interpretation of the Seventh
fully acceptable within its own terms. As usual, I found myself
in his more leisurely company enjoying the scenery.
The issue of couplings is particularly complex
in the case of the Seventh Symphony. In CD format the Vernon
Handley performance is available only as part of a box set,
but in download form the disc coupling the Seventh, Tintagel
and the Rogue’s Comedy Overture is available separately
for £8.40 (mp3 at 320kbps) or £10 (lossless version). For
anyone who has not yet acquired a version of the justly popular
Tintagel, this may be the best option – but is there
a Bax lover who does not already have at least one account
of this piece?
Lloyd-Jones (Naxos 8.557145) also offers Tintagel
as a coupling, albeit the sole coupling – again, most collectors
will probably have at least one version of Tintagel
and, at 56:55, this Naxos disc offers the shortest value.
It is, however, well worth considering, either on CD or as
a download from classicsonline or emusic. For reviews of this
version by RB
follow the links.
Lyrita (SRCD232) offer the best value time-wise
(77:51) with their coupling of the First and Seventh Symphonies
under Myer Fredman and Raymond Leppard respectively. Their
bravery in coupling Bax’s two least popular symphonies deserves
our admiration at the very least. CC thought that it deserved
more than that – see his review.
The mp3 version of this coupling from emusic will cost you
a mere six tracks of whatever monthly allocation you may have
signed up for (or £1.44 for the whole programme if you take
the 50-track-per-month option).
The Chandos/Thomson coupling is also generous but
I must admit that these four songs did not exactly fire my
enthusiasm, though Martyn Hill sings them sympathetically.
A Lyke-Wake begs comparison with Britten’s haunting
– and far superior – setting of the same traditional ballad.
You may prefer to choose just the three tracks containing
the symphony for £5.50 – after all, there’s no reason always
to download a whole disc if you’re going to sync the tracks
to your mp3 player. I must admit, however, that I like to
burn the tracks to CD as well, if only to provide a home for
the booklet which, as usual, can be downloaded as a pdf. document
and printed. As with the rest of the series, those notes are
well worth having. Even if you go for another version, they
can be printed out free of charge.
I found the recording more than acceptable, whether
played via my mp3 player plugged into the Aux. socket of the Arcam
Solo or burned to CD. This is not one of Chandos’s newer 320kbps
recordings and there is no lossless equivalent – clicking on the
icon of what purports to be a lossless version, with a W suffix,
will lead you to a dead end. (Some of these deleted recordings
are available in lossless format, however.) If you are happy with
the quality of BBC Radio 3 on FM or DAB, except when the latter
is reduced to 160kbps to accommodate sports broadcasts on Radio
5, you should not have any problems with this recording.