This program includes some of the least known masterpieces from Ernest Bloch’s nearly 30 works for orchestra. Macbeth: Two Symphonic Interludes is an intoxicating and passionate distillation of Shakespeare’s powerful drama. In Memoriam is a brief elegy dedicated to the pianist Ada Clement, while the Three Jewish Poems were written when Bloch was mourning the death of his father. Originally conceived as a third concerto grosso, Bloch’s last Symphony, in E flat major, is at times emotionally turbulent and deeply spiritual work containing passages of harmonic acerbity.
December Poems consists of four pieces for solo bass and two duets with Jan Garbarek on tenor and soprano sax. More accurately, the opening "Snow Dance" and the closing "Celebrations" are overdubbed bass duos (in part), while "Flower Crystals" pairs Peacock's bass with atmospheric strummed piano, although no piano credit is given. "December Greenwings," one of Peacock's most distinctive compositions, would later reappear on 2001's Amaryllis with Marilyn Crispell and Paul Motian. Despite the sparse and somewhat cold feeling of the record, Peacock's virtuosity and sterling tone are well-served in a solo format, especially so on the stately "A Northern Tale."
Gramophone Editor's Choice: "Vernon Handley (still no knighthood?) returns to his exploration of the Bax tone-poems with this sumptuous, majestic collection. Is it me, or are the sounds he can draw from orchestras ever more resplendent? It is almost as though he acquires more vigour with the passing years and the result here is a disc that bristles with energy and excitement. Marvelous." This is the premiere recording of Red Autumn. Three Northern Ballads are here recorded together for the first time.
This disc is conducted by Gramophone award-winner Vernon Handley, famous for his Bax interpretations and includes the rarely recorded Sinfonietta. "'These four orchestral pieces by Arnold Bax make for dangerous listening: you’ll be battered by storms and swept out to sea. Given Bax’s chromatic language and avoidance of clear-cut design you risk losing consciousness too: this isn’t a disc for continuous listening. Still Handley loves such opulent music; the BBC Philharmonic radiate in Chandos’ rich sound; and two pieces, November Woods and The Garden of Fand, are among Bax’s most seductive." (The Times)