Naxos's hugely welcome Bax symphony cycle continues. Number 4 is his "sea symphony", touched with the sights and sounds of Morar on the west coast of Scotland where the work was completed in 1931. It may not be the most immediately appealing of the Bax symphonies, but that's hardly down to any lack of surging passion (for example, at the close of the first movement and the opening of the last) especially given the forward momentum David Lloyd-Jones imparts to his reading, knitting together the wealth of ideas and episodes. The slow movement, nostalgic, wistful and stormy, is quintessential Bax. Throughout, the playing is urgent, committed and downright impressive, while the recording possesses both clarity and richness.
There's more nature music in the evocative 1912 Nympholept, which describes an ensnaring by nymphs in a haunted wood. The sense of mystery and pagan magic make it a counterpart to Bax's beguiling Spring Fire, which also should be better-known. In contrast, the Overture to a Picaresque Comedy is by turns playful, touching and riotous, in the style of Strauss's Til Eulenspiegel. It's as roguish as the title suggests and great fun. Both works are far more than makeweights, especially in the RSNO's hands.--Andrew Green