Friday, 14 November 2008

Arnold Bax: Piano Music on Lyrita played by Iris Loveridge

I scratched my head a little as to how to review this CD. Firstly, the sheer number of pieces on this release prohibits a detailed analysis of, or even a paragraph comment on, each work. I guess that if I discussed the thirty odd pieces it would become a dissertation: I imagine that few people would read through to the end. Secondly the complexity of a full comparison of the Lyrita edition of piano music of Arnold Bax with those issued by Naxos and Chandos would also seem to be over-ambitious.
I will admit a bias towards Iris Loveridge. It is not that I do not have the Eric Parkin, Michael Endres and Ashley Wass editions in my collection at home – of course I do! It is simply that like most English music enthusiasts of my generation, dear old Iris was all I had to make my evaluation of Bax’s piano works. I know that a few ‘orphan’ recordings by Harriet Cohen and others may have been doing the rounds in the ’sixties and ’seventies, but from my perspective, Lyrita was the only way to get to grips with what is a vital contribution to an understanding of an important part of Bax’s output.
I remember buying my copies of the Lyrita vinyl from a shop called ‘Symphony One’ in Glasgow and also from Banks Music in York. I borrowed a copy of the music of the Piano Sonatas from a friend who was studying at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and sat down to make acquaintance with these works. Later another friend lent me the sheet music for a number of the smaller works. It was an educative experience and gave me an enthusiasm for Bax’s piano music that survives to this day...
...I would heartily recommend this set. I accept that there are three very good alternatives available for the majority of pieces recorded here. Yet the bottom line is that Baxians will want all obtainable versions for their collections. It is good to be able to contrast and compare the Sonatas and lesser pieces. I guess that every listener would have a different opinion on playing style, timings, sound quality and interpretation. However, paraphrasing my late father, no-one deliberately issues a bad recording of Bax’s piano music. Often it is a mater of taste. However, this present Lyrita recording is a superb opportunity to purchase virtually all the solo piano pieces by Sir Arnold Bax. Moreover, they are played with technical brilliance, interpretive skill and have the ability to move the spirit and inspire the mind.

Arnold BAX (1883 -1953) The Piano Music CD 1 Piano Sonata No. 1 in F-sharp Minor (1910: rev. 1917-1921) Concert Waltz in E-flat (1910) Two Russian Tone Pictures (1912) Nocturne: May Night in the Ukraine; National Dance: Gopak; Toccata (1913) The Princess's Rose Garden (1915) In a Vodka Shop (1915) The Maiden with the Daffodil (1915) Apple-Blossom- Time (1915) Sleepy-Head (1915) A Mountain Mood (1915)
CD 2 Winter Waters (1915) Dream in Exile (Intermezzo) (1916) Nereid (1916) On a May Evening (1918) A Romance (1918) Whirligig (1919) Piano Sonata No. 2 in G (1919: rev. 1920) The Slave Girl (1919) What the Minstrel Told Us (Ballad) (1919)
CD 3 Ceremonial Dance (1920) Serpent Dance (1920) Water Music (1920) Lullaby (1920) Burlesque (1920) Country-Tune (1920) A Hill-Tune (1920) Mediterranean (1920) Piano Sonata No. 3 in G-sharp Minor (1926) Piano Sonata No. 4 in G (1932) O Dame get up and bake your Pies (1945)
Iris Loveridge (piano) LYRITA REAM 3113
Please read my full review of these great CDs at MusicWeb International

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