Work: Symphony no 3, Op. 63
About This Work
One of the most popular of Arnold's nine symphonies, the Symphony No. 3 was commissioned by, and is dedicated to, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Society. John Pritchard conducted the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic in the work's premiere performance
at London's Royal Albert Hall on December 2, 1957.
Arnold has cited the music of Jean Sibelius as being an important influence on his own compositions, and the thematic relationships between the three movements of Arnold's Third Symphony are reminiscent of similar processes in some of the Finnish composer's larger works. The first movement of the symphony, starting at an Allegro tempo, opens with a lyrical theme played by the violins and violas, with woodwind support and nervous pizzicati underneath. Ideas pass mercurially from instrument to instrument. Then a lovely new theme is introduced by the oboe, followed by other solo winds. This new theme is juxtaposed with the more anxious setting of the first, leading to the development section. These same two themes reappear as the movement abruptly speeds to a stormy Vivace concluding section. The second movement, marked Lento, has been described by the composer as "elegiac in character." It is a passacaglia, a set of 20 variations on a slow, dissonant chorale-like theme. More overtly tuneful than either of its predecessors, the third-movement finale opens with playful woodwinds and a humorous "oompah" accompaniment. Starting at a brisk Allegro con brio, the music speeds to Presto for the forceful coda.
-- Chris Morrison
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