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Arnold: The Three Musketeers / Pryce-Jones, Northern Ballet Theater Orchestra

Release Date: 10/14/2008 
Label:  Quartz Records   Catalog #: 2056   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  John LongstaffMalcolm Arnold
Conductor:  John Pryce-Jones
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Northern Ballet Theatre Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

ARNOLD (arr. Langstaff) The Three Musketeers John Pryce-Jones, cond; Northern Ballet Theatre O QUARTZ 2056 (79:36)

Malcolm Arnold had considered writing a fresh Dumas ballet in the 1970s, but this CD features the music from a 2006 production, devised for England’s Northern Ballet Theatre. Anthony Meredith, David Drew, and David Nixon the choreographer (all-for-one) assembled this score from disparate Arnold works, including symphonies, concertos, Read more and film music cues. John Langstaff then arranged it all for the theater’s orchestra. Three Musketeers was first danced on the day Arnold died, September 23, 2006, and if you’ve seen it yourself and want a souvenir, then this well-filled Quartz CD is self-recommending.

So, for the rest of you: the best-known music here is one of the English Dances . There are also fragments of the Second, Third, and Fifth Symphonies, the Serenade, and the First Sinfonietta. Some of the ballet’s love music is from the David Copperfield film score, and four other movies provide material, including interesting rarities like No Love for Johnnie and Roots of Heaven . It’s all undemanding, tuneful Arnold, and it sounds like narrative ballet music, in context. If you want to imagine the story of the Musketeers as you go along, then the CD booklet has a track-by-track synopsis. Everything is played with gusto, so it’s impossible to take exception to this disc on quality grounds. As a high-grade light music concert, it works very well. My favorite Arnold works are not represented, but the quality of the composer’s instrumental imagination is strong, and Langstaff’s adaptations are top-notch. The conductor also does a good job with the Vivace from the Second Symphony, one of a couple of pieces from this ballet that goes a bit deeper. Many of the other tunes and textures are rather similar, but that helps give the impression of a continuous story.

I’d refer you to Arnold’s Concerto for Two Pianos/Three Hands (the composer’s recording is back at arkivmusic.com—wonderful slow movement; you’re the poorer if you don’t know it), the Flute Concertos (Alexa Still has done them), and any of the symphonies heard complete, or else get the old Reference Recordings disc of overtures (with the composer). Buy those, if you wish to cross swords with Arnold’s bold inspiration. And if the current Quartz compilation (one-for-all) raises interest in his work, then the job was worth doing, and has been done well.

FANFARE: Paul Ingram
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Works on This Recording

The Three Musketeers by Malcolm Arnold
Conductor:  John Pryce-Jones
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Northern Ballet Theatre Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
Notes: Arranger: John Langstaff 

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