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Bax: Violin Sonatas Vol 2 / Jackson, Wass

Release Date: 11/20/2007 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8570094   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Arnold Bax
Performer:  Laurence JacksonAshley Wass
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 14 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Committed and thoughtful performances of some of Bax’s most deeply-felt music.

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
Read more states that it might also be called ‘The Dance of Death’. It is a waltz, bleached of joy - shades of Liszt’s Totentanz and Ravel’s La Valse. It comes to a full stop, in desolation, about half way through the movement to be followed by the violin’s melancholy statement of the main motif over piano arpeggios. The music eventually drags almost to a stop to merge into the third movement marked ‘Very broad and concentrated’. Here violin mourns and the piano writing seems to move in circles, turning in on itself as though lost and bewildered. The concluding movement marked ‘Allegro feroce’ is just that, for the most part. Bax seemingly shaking his fist in defiance at the madness consuming the world. Elsewhere the music escapes into a hoped for serenity, a nostalgic looking back to an ordered pre-war world. Jackson and Wass deliver a passionate, committed and finely shaded performance, the emotional impact of which is appreciated all the more on repeated hearings. Just what this darker, deeply-felt music richly deserves.

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.

-- Ian Lace, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

Sonata for Violin and Piano no 2 in D major by Arnold Bax
Performer:  Laurence Jackson (Violin), Ashley Wass (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1915; England 
Ballad for Violin and Piano by Arnold Bax
Performer:  Ashley Wass (Piano), Laurence Jackson (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1916; England 
Legend for Violin and Piano by Arnold Bax
Performer:  Ashley Wass (Piano), Laurence Jackson (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1915; England 
Sonata in one movement for Violin and Piano in G minor by Arnold Bax
Performer:  Ashley Wass (Piano), Laurence Jackson (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1901; England 
Sonata for Violin and Piano no 1 in E major by Arnold Bax
Performer:  Ashley Wass (Piano), Laurence Jackson (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
Notes: Composition written: England (1910).
Composition revised: 1915.
Composition revised: 1920.
Composition revised: England (1945). 
Sonata for Violin and Piano in F major by Arnold Bax
Performer:  Laurence Jackson (Violin), Ashley Wass (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1928; England 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Moody, Intensely Personal Chamber Music January 9, 2018 By Henry S. (Springfield, VA) See All My Reviews "I'll start this set of comments by admitting to some indecision about whether to give this recording a 4 or 5 star rating. In the end, I went with a 5, largely driven by the outstanding playing of violinist Laurence Jackson and pianist Ashley Wass. At this point, you should sense that I had a slightly different initial reaction to this music, compared to my usual very positive feeling about just about all chamber music that I listen to. Although there are only 3 'official' violin sonatas composed by Arnold Bax, a fourth sonata does exist and is contained on this Naxos disk, Volume 2 of Bax's works for violin and piano. This 'fourth' sonata is the 1928 Sonata in F Major, a 2 movement work with intense interplay between violin and piano, which apparently did not find favor with Bax himself, who rescored it as his Nonet. You will also find that the disk has a short and immature one movement sonata written by the composer while he was still a teenager in 1901. This brings us to the core work of the entire program, Bax's Violin Sonata # 2 from 1915. Listening to this somber, at times even morose, music makes it easy to understand the CD notes' explanation that it exemplifies Bax's reaction to the events of the first year of World War 1. The 4 movement markings assigned by the composer should give a hint as to the nature of this sonata- Slow and Gloomy (1), The Grey Dancer in the Twilight (2), Very Broad and Concentrated (3), and Allegro feroce (4). In other words, cheerful and optimistic it is definitely not. Finally, the recording presents 2 short compositions for violin and piano which are not sonatas- Ballad and Legend, both written during WW1. As mentioned above, Laurence Jackson and Ashley Wass are excellent as they traverse this program of aesthetically difficult music. Frankly, the essential character of this disk could well present some difficulties for those anticipating extroverted, uplifting music, of which this program doesn't contain much. In this respect, the recording overall is a horse of a different color compared to Volume 1 (Naxos 8.557540), which contained the substantially more positive First and Third Violin Sonatas. Nevertheless, Naxos has given us a recording which offers an instructive and valuable insight into some of the ingredients which made up Arnold Bax's musical worldview, and therefore it clearly deserves a listen." Report Abuse
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