SIR ARNOLD BAX – Orchestral Works Vol. 9: The Truth About the Russian Dancers; From Dusk till Dawn – London Philharmonic Orchestra/Bryden Thomson – Chandos Classics

by | Jul 9, 2008 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

SIR ARNOLD BAX – Orchestral Works Vol. 9:  The Truth About the Russian Dancers; From Dusk till Dawn – London Philharmonic Orchestra/Bryden Thomson
 
Chandos Classics CHAN 10457X, 67:12 **** [Distr. by Naxos]:

This is the latest in the continuing series of the Chandos collection of works by English composer Bax, who lived until 1953. The original recordings were made in 1990 and this is a reissue of an earlier release. In 1911 the composer became very taken with the performances by the Ballets Russes in London,  which followed on his having traveled to Russian the prior year. He works on sketches for a large-scale Russian-style ballet called both Tamara and King Kojata, but never orchestrated them. A previous Chandos CD in this series covered orchestral suites constructed from Bax’s sketches.

Later in his life Bax drew on his earlier ballet for other works. The Truth About the Russian Dancers draws on some themes from Tamara (Tamara Karsavina was the prima ballerina of Diaghilev’s company). The subtitle to the new ballet was “Showing how they love, how they marry, how they are made, with how they die and live happily ever afterwards.”  The title and scenario comes from a whimsical play by J.M. Barrie about a Russian ballerina who marries into an English country family.  She cannot speak but only dances her part – including her responses at her wedding ceremony.  The principal role was given to Tamara Karsavina, who had inspired Bax to begin with. Dramatically, the ballet was typical of escapist fare popular in the 1920s and if staged today would probably not translate well. But the scenario can be followed in the note booklet and the music is a delight.  At the conclusion, an English folk song represents the absorption of the Russian ballerina in the English aristocracy.

The ballet From Dusk till Dawn has a story about some china figurines which one summer night come to life.  After its first performance in 1918, the music was lost and only came to light again in l981.  Sonics are not as good as Chandos is doing currently, but are very listenable, and its good to have this off-the-beaten-track orchestral music available.

 – John Sunier

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