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Arnold: Dances / Thomson, Philharmonia Orchestra


Release Date: 10/28/1992 
Label:  Chandos   Catalog #: 8867   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Malcolm Arnold
Conductor:  Bryden Thomson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 48 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Bryden Thomson has the music's full measure. His strong rhythmic feeling fully catches its Holstian inheritance, and the excellent Philharmonia is responsive throughout.

It was Malcolm Arnold's set of eight English Dances that in 1950-51 put him firmly on the musical map, and in 1957 his film score for The Bridge on the River Kwai established his success in an area which would financially underpin his concert hall output. Many older readers will remember the Decca ten-inch 'medium play' record (a convenient format in this instance) which contained Sir Adrian Boult's 1954 LPO recording of the Dances. It was a mono demonstration disc in its day, and the Kingsway Hall recording still sounds impressive in its CD format. How
Read more the orchestra enjoyed itself playing these inspired vignettes, so exuberantly scored by a musician who had been their principal trumpeter from 1942 to 1948. He never wrote anything better, and in their combination of melodic charm and wonderfully imaginative orchestral colour they are worthy to be compared with Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite, and there is not much mid-twentiethcentury light music that could receive that kind of accolade.

The Scottish Dances followed in 1957, and have a comparable folksy vitality; the third, marked Grazioso has a wonderful melody, romantically identifying with the beauty and spectacle of the Scottish highland scenery and the haunting atmosphere of the remote Western Isles. At the time it reassured us that composers could 'still write real tunes. The Cornish Dances date from a decade later, and while the composer's gleeful sense of irony is still apparent in his solemn "Sankey and Moody" pastiche, the sky now has become rather more cloudy and his slow movement draws a picture of the deserted tin and copper mines where the ruins "radiate a strange and sad beauty". By the time the Irish Dances arrived in 1986, the composer's mood had darkened further. The incisively rhythmic first dance sounds like a return to the joyful world of the English set, but the exuberance then seems to evaporate and there is almost a valedictory mood in the two central pieces, while the final jig hardly evokes a sense of sentimental good natured Irish whimsy. Arnold is above all a miniaturist, a kind of English Grieg, and in their modest way these four sets of dance movements encapsulate his musical working life. The programme ends lightheartedly with two extra numbers which he wrote when in 1956 the eight English Dances became the ballet, Solitaire, and the last item on the disc, the "Polka" shows his witty, precise scoring at its most infectious.

Bryden Thomson has the music's full measure. Perhaps his performance of the masterly English set have not quite the lift of the Boult, when one can sense the LPO revelling in their own lack of inhibition, but Thomson's strong rhythmic feeling in the robust opening Cornish Dance, for instance, fully catches the music's Holstian inheritance, and the gentler evocations are nicely handled, with an excellent Philharmonia response throughout. The recording, made in the resonance of St Jude's Church in north London has plenty of atmosphere, with Arnold's rich brass sonorities and boisterous horn whoops well caught. The fairly close microphones bring a vivid brilliance too, although the upper range, as always in such circumstances, has a degree of brightness that the ears would not pick up at a live concert.

– Gramophone [10/1990]
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Works on This Recording

1.
English Dances (4), Op. 27 by Malcolm Arnold
Conductor:  Bryden Thomson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1950; England 
2.
English Dances (4), Op. 33 by Malcolm Arnold
Conductor:  Bryden Thomson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1951; England 
3.
Scottish Dances (4), Op. 59 by Malcolm Arnold
Conductor:  Bryden Thomson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1957; England 
4.
Cornish Dances (4), Op. 91 by Malcolm Arnold
Conductor:  Bryden Thomson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1968; England 
5.
Irish Dances (4), Op. 126 by Malcolm Arnold
Conductor:  Bryden Thomson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1986; England 
6.
Solitaire: Sarabande by Malcolm Arnold
Conductor:  Bryden Thomson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1956; England 
7.
Solitaire: Polka by Malcolm Arnold
Conductor:  Bryden Thomson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1956; England 

Sound Samples

English Dances, Set 1, Op. 27: No. 1. Andantino
English Dances, Set 1, Op. 27: No. 2. Vivace
English Dances, Set 1, Op. 27: No. 3. Mesto
English Dances, Set 1, Op. 27: No. 4. Allegro risoluto
English Dances, Set 2, Op. 33: No. 1. Allegro non troppo
English Dances, Set 2, Op. 33: No. 2. Con brio
English Dances, Set 2, Op. 33: No. 3. Grazioso
English Dances, Set 2, Op. 33: No. 4. Guibiloso - Lento e Maestoso
4 Scottish Dances, Op. 59: No. 1. Pesante
4 Scottish Dances, Op. 59: No. 2. Vivace
4 Scottish Dances, Op. 59: No. 3. Allegretto
4 Scottish Dances, Op. 59: No. 4. Con brio
4 Cornish Dances, Op. 91: No. 1. Vivace
4 Cornish Dances, Op. 91: No. 2. Andantino
4 Cornish Dances, Op. 91: No. 3. Con moto e sempre senza parodia
4 Cornish Dances, Op. 91: No. 4. Allegro ma non troppo - Vivace - Tempo primo - Vivace - Tempo primo - Presto - Tempo Primo
4 Irish Dances, Op. 126: No. 1. Allegro con energico
4 Irish Dances, Op. 126: No. 2. Commodo
4 Irish Dances, Op. 126: No. 3. Piacevole
4 Irish Dances, Op. 126: No. 4. Vivace
Solitaire: Sarabande
Solitaire: Polka

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