Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger



Sir Arnold BAX (1883-1953)
Symphony No.4 (1931) [41:55]
Tintagel (1917-19) [14:57]
Ulster Orchestra/Bryden Thomson
rec. Ulster Hall, Belfast, Northern Ireland, 10-11 April 1983. DDD.
Booklet with notes available as pdf. download
Experience Classicsonline


Bryden Thomson’s series of Bax symphonies was replaced some time ago by new versions from Vernon Handley.  The older versions remained in the catalogue as a mid-price 5-CD box set (CHAN8906) but have now apparently been deleted even in that format.  They are available, however, in download form: the complete set in 320kbps mp3and lossless formats at £5.50 and £9.90 respectively per CD.  The recordings are more generously coupled in this version, though some remain short value; be aware that some symphonies are split across tracks.  The individual recordings also remain available under their original catalogue numbers, as here, though in mp3 format only, for £6 each. 

The Fourth is perhaps the least well-known of Bax’s symphonies.  The Penguin Guide dismisses it as “incontrovertibly the weakest of the seven”, an opinion no doubt attributable in the main to Robert Layton, who expressed much the same sentiment in his original Gramophone review of this recording; he did, however, modify that sentiment by praising this account.  So serious is the PG’s dislike of the work that the very good Naxos recording is not even listed, though their versions of all the other symphonies are.  That Naxos version (8.555343, coupled with Nympholept and the Overture to a Picaresque Comedy), retailing in CD form for around £5-£6 and available online for £4.99, is the obvious rival to compare with the Thomson version. 

The Gramophone Guide does not share the PG’s dislike of this symphony, describing it as “the most exuberantly inventive and colourful of the cycle”, an opinion with which I find it hard to disagree, especially in two such fine performances.  The construction is not as taut as one would normally expect in a symphony – more like a triptych of tone poems – but the music is very enjoyable. 

Bax described the work as an evocation of the sea at high tide in summer, a particularly apt description of the outer movements – shades of Debussy’s La Mer in the allegro Finale.  The lento moderato slow movement is an evocation of a sunny afternoon almost on a par with l’Après-midi d’un Faune.  If you like Debussy, you’ll almost certainly warm to this symphony. 

David Lloyd-Jones’s account on Naxos is a degree tauter in the first two movements – in each of these he shaves around a minute off Thomson’s timings – and honours are about even in the Finale.  As usual, however, timings tell only part of the story, since both conductors capture the magic of the music and both are well served by their orchestras.  Indeed, despite the shorter timings, Lloyd-Jones seems more prepared to bask in the more luxurious passages.  Neither the Ulster Orchestra (Chandos) nor the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (Naxos) is in the top league, but both serve their conductors and the music well.  The Ulster players, perhaps, just have the edge in the weightier passages but it is a very close call.  Heard alone, each version makes perfectly good sense. 

On this occasion my resolve to keep only one recording of each work in my over-large collection will be severely tested.  I think my ultimate choice is likely to be the Thomson – I note that RB also marginally preferred this in his otherwise welcoming appraisal of the Naxos – see review. 

The performance of Tintagel on this recording is also available on CHAN10156X, available as a CD or as a download, coupled with The Garden of Fand and other short pieces.  Whichever coupling you choose, I cannot imagine a better performance of this popular piece. 

The Naxos coupling offers two less well-known pieces.  I imagine that most listeners will prefer Tintagel, but you may well already have that – especially if you have chosen to follow my recent recommendation of its new coupling.  The Naxos couplings may not have the immediate attraction of Tintagel, but both are well worth having. 

Naxos place the two shorter works first, which I generally prefer, making it easier to skip to the start of the symphony if you wish.  The playing time of that recording is a more generous 65 minutes; at 57 minutes, the Chandos now seems short value, though there are still new CDs appearing with even shorter playing times.  Purchasing from the complete set on CHAN8906 doesn’t help, since it is there split across two CDs.  You could, of course, purchase an extra track of your choice from another Chandos download – tracks are priced separately – and create your own longer programme. 

Both recordings do the music full justice.  Though made in the early days of digital recording – the enthusiastic notes about this new phenomenon in the booklet now read rather quaintly – the Chandos still sounds very well, even in mp3 format.  Heard on good speakers, the result is hardly distinguishable from recent CDs; heard through headphones there is the merest suggestion of uneasiness at climaxes.  The Naxos recording, made in the Henry Wood Hall, Glasgow in 2000, is slightly brighter and more forward. 

The pdf. booklet is not as well presented as those offered with other Chandos downloads – the scan is rather smudgy by comparison – but the notes, by Lewis Foreman, are excellent.

Brian Wilson



Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All APR reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount




Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.