Review By Steven E. Ritter,Fanfare,November 2008
This second volume of sonatas by Arnold Bax sort of snuck up on me—the more I listened, the more I liked it, and then in the end I found myself considering it one of the top releases of the year.
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Review By Michael Cookson,MusicWeb International,February 2008
The ever-growing ranks of lovers of English chamber music will be in their element here. Released as part of the company’s 20th Century British Music series this second volume of Bax’s works for violin and piano is once again performed by violinist Laurence Jackson, and pianist Ashley Wass. I recently reviewed the winning first volume containing the first and third sonata on 8.557540 – a joy to hear. This was adouble review combined with a disc of Bax’s works for viola and piano on Naxos 8.557784.
Review By ,Musica,March 2008
Review By Andrew Achenbach,Gramophone,January 2008
Cast in four linked movements and held together by a motto theme which also appears in the 1917 tone-poem November Woods, Bax's storm-tossed Second Violin Sonata was conceived during the summer of 1915 at a time of great personal upheaval for the 31-year-old composer and comprehensively overhauled six years later. Be it in the seductive sway of the second movement (a ghostly waltz enigmatically entitled "The Grey Dancer in the Twilight") or hair-raising final climax prior to the ecstatically serene epilogue, these dashingly poised newcomers give of their considerable best, with CBSO leader Laurence Jackson formidably secure in the solo part's more scarily vertiginous exploits. On reflection, Tasmin Little and Martin Roscoe do evince the greater familiarity, affection and
In any case, what lifts this collection into the indispensable category are the spellbinding performances (all far more arresting than those by Robert Gibbs and Mary Mei Loc-Wu on ASV, 8/01 and 6/02) of the darkly smouldering Legend and Ballad from 1915 and 1916 respectively, as well as the Allegro appassionato in G minor (a likeable student effort from 1901) and unpublished F major Sonata of 1928 (which Bax subsequently recast as his captivating Nonet).
The Potton Hall sound in these last four items (emanating from sessions a year after those for the Second Sonata) is particularly handsome and true, and the disc as a whole represents yet another "must have" within this extensive series.
Review By Ian Lace,MusicWeb International,January 2008
Arnold Bax’s Second Violin Sonata, written in 1915 but revised and concentrated in 1920, is a far cry from the immediacy and exotic romanticism of his First. The woodland light and fairy dreaming have given way to reality and concerns about a world plunged into the horrors of the Great War. The principal motif, familiar from November Woods dominates the whole sonata. The opening movement, marked ‘Slow and Gloomy’ is anguished and despairing, with little relief from the violin’s sinking lines and passionate protests, and the piano’s doom-filled bass tread. “The Grey Dancer in the Twilight’ is Bax’s title for the second movement. Lewis Foreman states that it might also be called ‘The Dance of Death’. It is a waltz,
The other major work in this programme is the two-movement Sonata in F major completed in September 1928. Bax suppressed it during his lifetime because he soon afterwards re-scored it as his Nonet (January 1930). It was not performed in this form until the Bax centenary celebrations in 1983. This Sonata is, sunnier, more settled and serenade-like, yet there is, too, a discomforting edginess to some of its pages. Back to 1901 for Bax’s student work, the Allegro appassionato of the Sonata in G minor. It is an attractive piece, a confident and assertive work, passionate and romantic. It is not without wit, and was inspired by, and written for Bax’s Academy girlfriend Gladys Lees.
The Ballad for Violin and Piano begins very turbulently, the violin writing particularly agitated. This is Bax’s reaction to the tragedy of the Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916. The music clearly reflects how these events must have affected the composer for he was passionately fond of all things Irish. Some of the people caught up in those terrible events were known personally to Bax – particularly Padraig Pearse who was one of those executed after the event. Balancing the turbulence is romantic reflective music with, again, some waltz measures. Legend for Violin and Piano from 1915 is said to have reflected the first months of the Great War and is elegiac in character. In the main the music does not suggest the horrors of war, apart from passages like the piano’s final pounding chords. Bax prefers to mourn, in some quite lovely pages, the passing of an era.
Committed and thoughtful performances of some of Bax’s most deeply-felt music concerned with the horrors of World War I and the tragic events of the Easter Uprising in Dublin.