Saturday, June 07, 2014

Give us something else, give us something new


John McLaughlin Williams has added a comment to my post Remembering Bryden Thomson pointing out, quite rightly, that: "Thomson did many fine things, but if he is to be remembered for one great thing it should be his pioneering first recordings of the complete cycle of symphonies by Arnold Bax. The true Bax revival began with Bryden Thomson". I can only endorse John's comment, and above is one of the LPs of Bryden Thomson conducting Bax that opened my ears to the composer's music in the 1980s. Twenty years later Chandos went on to record another superb Bax symphony cycle with Vernon Handley; it is the latter that has remained in the catalogue leaving the unfortunate Bryden Thomson as the forgotten pioneer of Bax.

Today there is so much classical radio airtime to schedule, so many concerts to programme, and so much iPod memory to fill. So why we can't have a little Bax among all the Mahler is quite beyond me; particularly as the sound worlds of the two composers are not a million miles apart. This thread started with Carl Nielsen, and the Danish composer wrote eloquently about the curse of dumbing down by repetition. If I was director general of the BBC - dream on - I would make the new BBC Radio 3 controller and Proms director repeat these words of Carl Nielsen every day before starting work:
The right of life is stronger than the most sublime art, and even if we reached agreement on the fact that now the best and most beautiful has been achieved, mankind thirsting more for life and adventure than perception, would rise and shout in one voice: give us something else, give us something new, indeed for Heaven's sake give us rather the bad, and let us feel that we are still alive, instead of constantly going around in deedless admiration for the conventional.
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4 comments:

Pliable said...

Bryden Thomson recorded his Bax symphony cycle with the estimable Ulster Orchestra. Which leads to another forgotten maestro - http://www.overgrownpath.com/2007/10/remembering-forgotten-maestro.html

Pliable said...

John McLaughlin Williams has commented via Facebook:

I'll never forget the release of this LP. Up till them I had only heard the Lyrita recordings of Symphonies 1, 2, 6, and 7. This Chandos release in modern sound was a revelation even though the performance was a tad slow. It's generally agreed that the 4th is Bax's weakest symphony, so they kind of got that out of the way and perfected the sound of the recordings while thy were at it. Nonetheless, if English repertoire interests you, this recording is a must hear.

Gavin Plumley said...

Have no fear Bob, we'll be inundated with Nielsen, a big yawn for me I'm afraid (irrelevant as that point is) in 2015 when anniversary season comes round again.

Pliable said...

Gavin, I wonder if we will be inundated with Nielsen in 2015: the sixtieth anniversary of Bax's death in 2013 generated almost zero activity. But, if Nielsen does receive some attention in 2015, ponder on this:

Give us something else, give us something new, indeed for Heaven's sake give us rather the big yawn, and let us feel that we are still alive, instead of constantly going around in deedless admiration for the conventional.