Delightful arrangements and fine symphonies mark Sir Malcolm Arnold’s centenary in these two excellent tribute releases
Complete Symphonies and Dances Naxos (6 CDs), out now
Peter Fisher and Margaret Fingerhut
Malcolm Arnold: A Centenary Celebration SOMM, out now
Sir Malcolm Arnold, who won an Oscar for his music for The Bridge On The River Kwai, one of 120 film scores he created, was born 100 years ago last month.
Arguably the consistently greatest melodist these islands have produced, Arnold was extremely accomplished, writing nine full symphonies, two dozen virtuosic concertos and a mass of orchestral music, some of which has become light-music classics such as the English Dances or The Padstow Lifeboat.
Happily, this centenary has been marked by two excellent releases. Naxos has reissued a fine set of Arnold’s symphonies, and all the British Dances, well recorded in late-1990s sound, and idiomatically conducted by Andrew Penny.
Arnold (above) was extremely accomplished, writing nine full symphonies, two dozen virtuosic concertos and a mass of orchestral music
However, the symphonies are often tough-going, as Arnold wrote out his various inner traumas. They are not really the place to start to appreciate this outstanding composer.
Lighter stuff is to be recommended, such as this fine album from SOMM, featuring the violinist Peter Fisher and the pianist Margaret Fingerhut, both Arnold specialists.
As well as some quite tricky pieces, there are delightful arrangements of popular stuff such as the Scottish Dances, and his music for film.
Arnold composed three scores for Sir David Lean. His own favourite was Hobson’s Choice, a 1954 movie starring Charles Laughton. And Alan Poulton’s four-minute suite of musical highlights is a real joy.