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Chris Green
Brentwood Gazette, November 2011

these 1996 recordings made in the Wessex Hall, Poole Arts Centre have a warmth to them which in no way diminishes the bleakness of sections of both Sinfonia Antarctica (Symphony No 7) and Symphony No 8 in D minor. This was a valuable addition to the Naxos range of recordings of British music, and worth getting whatever the price.

Gramophone, April 2011

The Atmospheric Choice

Kees Bakels and the Bournemouth SO are themselves impressive but their disc also contains the literary extracts with which Vaughan Williams headed each movement, spoken with real feeling by David Timson and sensibly recorded on separate tracks.

Penguin Guide, January 2009

Kees Bakels gives powerful, intense performances of two of the more problematic works, written towards the end of the composer’s career, when he deliberately defied symphonic convention. The Antartica is particularly impressive, helped by vividly atmospheric recording that, with superb wind-machine—and beautifully captures the ethereal sound of Lynda Russell singing off-stage. Bakel’s fast speed for the opening movement tautly draws together a structure which can seem dangerously episodic, and the thrust is maintained through the order movements. Sensibly, the superscriptions are included on separate tracks at the end of the disc. No.8 is excellent done too, with an element of wildness brought out in the sharp contrast of the first movement, bouncing humour in the Scherzo and refinement in the slow movement and finale.

Classic CD

"Expansively chilly Antarctica warmly recommended"


"Vaughan Williams fashioned the Sinfonia antartica from his incidental music to the film Scott of the Antarctic; its five movements don't conform to standard structural models, but the music progresses according to its own inexorable, satisfying logic, and can be most effective in the right hands. Where Haitink on EMI performs it for abstract, "symphonic" drama and power, Kees Bakels emphasizes the score's vivid, pictorial qualities. The opening movement paints cold, sweeping, majestic vistas, building to an affirmative, brass-laden climax. The central "Landscape" movement evokes mystery and awe; if some of the ostinato rhythms here and in the 'Intermezzo' suggest a suspense film, this is hardly inappropriate! The 'Epilogue's' jagged march opening wavers between triumph and peril, with the severe, forbidding elements dominating the close.

The non-programmatic Eighth Symphony is cast in the conventional four movements, but here, too, the composer experiments with form. The opening movement, for example, is a set of Variazioni senza Tema ("variations without a theme"); the middle movements, a Scherzo and a Cavatina, are scored for winds alone and strings alone respectively. It is a work of striking variety, vitality, and color, with reposeful passages balancing others of driving energy.

The Bournemouth players have as good a feel for this music as any of the London orchestras does, and they've never sounded better. Brasses are round and full; strings fill out their phrases with a nice sheen (particularly in the Seventh's 'Intermezzo'); and the lustrous clarinet deserves particular praise among the woodwinds. The climaxes sound a touch overbright, but otherwise the recording is colorful and detailed; in the Seventh, not only is the organ's big 'Landscape' solo encompassed with ease, but the distinctive textures of organ with strings and then trumpet come across vividly."


"The Dutchman directs with intelligence and lucidity... Bakel's Eighth is very good too"

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