- Tintagel, tone poem for orchestra
- Symphony No. 7 in A flat major
Naxos' Bax symphony series by David Lloyd-Jones and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, which comes to a close with this recording of the Seventh Symphony and the tone poem Tintagel, has been a blessing not only for Bax admirers but also for those in search of a modestly priced introduction to the work of (arguably) Britain's finest 20th-century symphonist after Vaughan Williams. If the Seventh tops few lists of the best of Bax's symphonies (that honor generally goes to the Sixth), it contains much spirited, brightly optimistic music that is unfailingly harmonious and tuneful, and it comes off vividly in this taut and confident performance. The tone poem, on the other hand, is one of the composer's best-known scores; finished two decades earlier in 1919, it's a Romantic musical portrait of the ruined castle on the sea cliffs of Cornwall. The RSNO respond to Lloyd-Jones's snappy direction with playing that may be short on atmosphere but lacks nothing in exhilaration. Recent years have seen a veritable Bax bonanza: Vernon Handley's complete set with the BBC Philharmonic, on Chandos, offers one-stop shopping, while Bryden Thomson's series on the same label benefits from the silky-smooth playing of the London Philharmonic. The RSNO doesn't quite match the refinement of the LPO, and Handley's all-in-one set has its advantages, but Lloyd-Jones's series has much to recommend it as well -- vigorous playing and lucid direction, for starters. Add in Naxos' unbeatable value, and it's a Bax series that's a cinch to satisfy.