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Arnold: Overtures / Gamba, Bbc Po


Release Date: 04/26/2005 
Label:  Chandos   Catalog #: 10293   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Malcolm Arnold
Conductor:  Rumon Gamba
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 16 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Alongside his nine symphonies and several suites of dances, Sir Malcolm Arnold’s dozen or so overtures form a crucial and very characteristic component of his catalogue and his musical temperament. This spanking and sparkly new Chandos collection of 10 of these alternatingly radiant and rousing works is a greatly welcome compilation, as they are resplendently performed by the BBC Philharmonic under the tireless Rumon Gamba. One highlight of this release is the premiere recording of the latest of Sir Malcolm’s works in this form, Robert Kett, op. 141 of 1990. This rather stark eight-minute piece commemorates another proletarian uprising, and as such is a throwback to what is certainly the most dramatic of the overtures, Peterloo, op. 97, Read more composed more than two decades earlier in 1967. Although not designated as a premiere, the three-minute Flourish for Orchestra, op. 112 of 1973, will also be new to most listeners.

The program opens with the first recording in decades of the famous (perhaps “infamous” is more apt) Grand Grand Overture, op. 57 (1956), written for the Hoffnung Festival of musical parody and all-around foolishness and featuring three vacuum cleaners and one floor polisher—all specially tuned—among its principals, all of which soloists get star billing on this CD. This work out-Rossinis Rossini by seemingly never being able to settle on a final resolution or chordal closure—it has climax after climax, resulting in one of the most hilarious passages in musical history.

Of course, this disc includes those four great early overtures—Beckus the Dandipratt, The Smoke, Sussex, and Tam o’ Shanter—the first and last of which helped to inscribe Sir Malcolm’s name indelibly on the British musical map and led to his long and successful career as a film composer. These earlier works possess a snarling ferocity and shameless effrontery that seem to be restrained in the later “occasional” overtures, such as the lyrically waltz-based Fair Field, op. 110 (1972), and the celebratory shorter Anniversary Overture, op. 99 (1968), which was originally entitled the Hong Kong Festival Overture. The only other overture missing from this collection is the extended (nearly 20 minutes) Commonwealth Christmas Overture of 1957, which marked the 25th anniversary of King George’s Christmas greetings, broadcast by the BBC in 1932. In this work, which was included in the now deleted 1992 Reference CD of overtures conducted by the composer with the London Philharmonic, Sir Malcolm threw in many of the elements comprising his more pop-oriented works as a kind of musical cross section of the British Empire.

It is always interesting to compare the composer’s own versions of Beckus, The Smoke (which is really Arnold’s London Overture), A Fair Field, and A Sussex Overture with Gamba’s. The latter treats the scores as genuine curtain-raisers, while the composer, who is notorious for his elongated and erratic tempos, gives them more of a “tone poem” cast with many dramatically contrasted passages, as he also does in his EMI recording of the Peterloo Overture. For example, his Smoke is 12 minutes long; Gamba’s is only eight!

But both approaches are musically valid and convincing as well as emotionally rewarding, and this Chandos disc should be part of any self-respecting collection of 20th- century English music. Hear! Hear!

Paul A. Snook, FANFARE
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Works on This Recording

1.
Peterloo Overture, Op. 97 by Malcolm Arnold
Conductor:  Rumon Gamba
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1968; England 
2.
The Fair Field, Op. 110 by Malcolm Arnold
Conductor:  Rumon Gamba
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1971; England 
3.
Tam O'Shanter Overture, Op. 51 by Malcolm Arnold
Conductor:  Rumon Gamba
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1955; England 
4.
Beckus the Dandipratt Overture, Op. 5 by Malcolm Arnold
Conductor:  Rumon Gamba
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1943; England 
5.
The Smoke, Op. 21 by Malcolm Arnold
Conductor:  Rumon Gamba
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1948; England 
6.
A Sussex Overture, Op. 31 by Malcolm Arnold
Conductor:  Rumon Gamba
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1951; England 
7.
Anniversary Overture, Op. 99 by Malcolm Arnold
Conductor:  Rumon Gamba
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1968; England 
8.
A Grand, Grand Overture, Op. 57 by Malcolm Arnold
Conductor:  Rumon Gamba
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1956; England 
9.
Robert Kett Overture, Op.141 by Malcolm Arnold
Conductor:  Rumon Gamba
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1990 
10.
A Flourish for Orchestra, Op.112 by Malcolm Arnold
Conductor:  Rumon Gamba
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1973 

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