‘This is the greatest single Bax orchestral record I have heard: the orchestral playing is magnificent throughout, of a quality that this music has been crying out for for decades but which it has never received - until now... this playing is of a high international standard - but over and above the excellence of this fine orchestra is the profound understanding and musicianship of Vernon Handley's conducting... an issue of considerable importance' International Record Review
‘This recording makes a splendid follow-up to Vernon Handley's set of the complete Bax symphonies: here some of the composer's most powerful orchestral writing receives utterly committed, full-bloodied performance, the complex textures ideally balanced and superbly recorded.' BBC Music Magazine
‘Now Handley lifts us to a new level by penetrating into Bax's emotional state. It's all here - the yearning, uncertainty, raw days, and sweeping storms. As a tone poem of a piece of music, the Boult is exemplary, but for a glimpse into the state of mind that produced November Woods, you need Vernon Handley... This recording is not only a discovery, it's a treat' American Record Guide
Bax's love affair with the orchestra first fully came to fruition with the tone poem In the Faery Hills, which was completed in 1909 and also crowned his affection for the country of Ireland. Bax himself referred to it as his first orchestral work, and it was thus regarded during his lifetime. In the Faery Hills was to become his first widely played tone poem and the only one of his early orchestral scores to be published. In the Faery Hills and The Garden of Fand are influenced by Bax's early passion for Ireland, however, the reality of the First World War, the Easter rising in Dublin, along with his love affair with the pianist Harriet Cohen, made for some deeply autobiographical works.
In The Garden of Fand, completed in 1913 whilst he was living in Dublin, Bax finally fully achieved his mature impressionistic style. He referred to this as ‘the last of my Irish music', and the work evokes both the land and the sea, a constant source of inspiration for Bax. Both November Woods and Tintagel were intimately concerned with Bax's love affair with Harriet Cohen. The Sinfonietta was never performed in Bax's lifetime; it was premiered in a broadcast by the BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra under Vernon Handley in 1983 so it is just that this recording should be led by that great conductor.