Leppard/London Philharmonic: Bax Symphony No. 5 (rec. 1971) - Lyrita SRCS. 58
Jacket EX / LP NM
This handsome LP from Lyrita (SRCS. 58, UK pressing, blue/silver label, stereo) features conductor Raymond Leppard and the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s powerful account of Arnold Bax’s Symphony No. 5, sumptuously recorded in demonstration quality sound in 1971 – in many ways, a performance still unsurpassed on record.
Of Lyrita's CD re-issue of Bax's Smphonies No. 2 (with Myer Fredman) and No. 5, the wonderful writer and critic David Hurwitz wrote for ClassicsToday:
“There has been a lot of water flowing under the Baxian bridge since these sterling performances first appeared, but the bottom line is that they have never been surpassed. Indeed, aside from a disc of Havergal Brian symphonies, this performance of the Bax Second is the one Lyrita issue on CD that I have been most eager to see. It’s not just that Meyer Fredman’s pacing is perfect (true also of Raymond Leppard’s Fifth); but what these performances have that no others match is atmospheric sonics that project the colors and “legendary” qualities of Bax’s rich scoring better than any of the subsequent competition (on Chandos, twice, and Naxos).
You can hear this particularly well in the Second Symphony’s first-movement introduction. Those heraldic horn fanfares resound through the ostinato of harp, celesta, and sustained violins like a summons from another world (first sample). Or consider the terrifying presence of the organ pedals in the central andante, lending power to its main climax without ever turning “churchy” or muddying the orchestral textures. The open acoustic captures the barbaric splendor of the Fifth’s frequent march episodes with unforgettable impact, yet with no sacrifice in clarity, never mind the glittering opening of the central Poco lento.
So much of Bax’s music depends on sheer sonic allure to make its best impression, and if you want to hear his special magic operating at full force, then this disc is the place to start."
The reverse side of the jacket carries informative liner notes by Robert Layton, printed in English only. The striking cover design was executed by Keith Hensby.