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Arnold: Symphony no 6, Fantasy / Handley, Royal PO


Release Date: 08/13/1998 
Label:  Conifer   Catalog #: 16847   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Malcolm Arnold
Performer:  John LillDerek James
Conductor:  Vernon Handley
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 18 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

The composer must have been impressed by the power, spontaneity and grip of all these performances, especially by John Lill's melting delicacy in the John Field Fantasy.

Arnold's Tam O'Shanter, with its vivid drunken carousing and a witches' sabbath complete with bagpipes, never fails to make an impact and its exuberant scoring is vividly conveyed here. The essentially good-natured, high-spirited music for the ballet, Sweeney Todd, is a far cry from the malignancy of Stephen Sondheim's musical. Arnold instead surely recalls Tod Slaughter's Victorian-styled melodrama, which toured the No. 2 Theatres during the inter-war years. "I'll polish them or was the old actor-impresario's punch line, articulated with guttural
Read more emphasis and a glare at the audience, as he wiped the tomato ketchup off his cut-throat razor. And Arnold's score has a genuine music-hall flavour, with lots of gusto, a winning waltz theme, an Offenbachian can-can and even twittering bird effects in the tuneful pot-pourri towards the end of the suite. All brightly scored and most entertaining when presented with such spirited insouciance as it is here. The Fantasy on a theme of John Field opens with a flourish, then the piano enters relatively unostentatiously to gently establish the Nocturne in C major. But there are various orchestral interruptions, often dissonant, to create an ambivalent atmosphere before the sun finally comes out. The delightfully innocent melody then asserts itself, first with the soloist and then warmly and tenderly on the lower strings. The variations are intricate, with many quixotic changes of mood, with grotesquerie and a delicious jazzy scherzando interspersed with several affectionate lyrical episodes before a grandly flamboyant 'big tune' Rachmaninovian romantic climax.

The powerful Sixth Symphony—even though it has an upbeat ending to its jovial rondo-like finale—is a work which broods a great deal. It opens with a swirl of woodwinds, then the strings establish an ominous serial pedal effect interrupted by stabbing shafts of dark colour from the brass.

The composer has suggested that his writing carries an affinity with the jazz phrases of Charlie Parker, yet its character is essentially symphonic, the string lines both scurrying and angularly sonorous matched by melancholy and energetic woodwind. The plaintive oboe solo against pizzi cato lower strings at 456", which is taken up by the violins, is very much a theme for a symphony rather than a blues for a saxophone, and the development, with its restless rhythmic pulse, presses onwards with ominous, unrelenting force, until the energy suddenly and unexpectedly evaporates at the movement's close. The composer's mood fails to lift in the Lento where, after a long nocturnal passage of shimmering, shifting orchestral sands, a ghostly march emerges. Later there is haunting orchestral colour as the horns intone an ostinato and the woodwind make bizarre interjections (606"). Arnold's tangible use of the brass is very recognizable as he prepares for the moment when the big drums orchestrate the climax and we return to the uneasy funereal mood of the opening and the movement ends with a single sharp staccato, like a pistol-shot. But we are then reassured by the life-assertive brightness of the trumpet tune which dominates the finale. The composer was present at the recording sessions and must have been impressed by the power, spontaneity and grip of all these performances, and certainly by John Lill's melting Irish delicacy in his sotto voce presentations of the John Field Nocturne. The recording, made in London's Henry Wood Hall, is in every way first class.

-- Gramophone [2/1994]
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Works on This Recording

1.
Symphony no 6, Op. 95 by Malcolm Arnold
Conductor:  Vernon Handley
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1967; England 
Date of Recording: 04/1993 
Venue:  Henry Wood Hall, London 
Length: 26 Minutes 41 Secs. 
2.
Fantasy on a theme of John Field, Op. 116 by Malcolm Arnold
Performer:  John Lill (Piano)
Conductor:  Vernon Handley
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1975; England 
Date of Recording: 04/1993 
Venue:  Henry Wood Hall, London 
Length: 21 Minutes 42 Secs. 
3.
Tam O'Shanter Overture, Op. 51 by Malcolm Arnold
Performer:  Derek James (Trombone)
Conductor:  Vernon Handley
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1955; England 
Date of Recording: 04/1993 
Venue:  Henry Wood Hall, London 
Length: 8 Minutes 24 Secs. 
4.
Sweeney Todd: Suite, Op 68a by Malcolm Arnold
Conductor:  Vernon Handley
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1984; England 
Date of Recording: 04/1993 
Venue:  Henry Wood Hall, London 
Length: 20 Minutes 9 Secs. 
Notes: This concert suite was written in collaboration with David Ellis. 

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