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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    

 

Arnold (1921-) - Suite: Little Suite No. 1
 

It's well-known that the “democratic” brilliance of Arnold's scoring results from the diligent application of his intimate inside knowledge of the orchestra. The less obvious side of this coin is beautifully illustrated by the Little Suite No. 1, which is the published title of a set of three pieces, To  Youth, composed in 1948 for the inaugural concert of the National Youth Orchestra. In consideration of the relatively limited capabilities of the young players (then, though certainly not these days!), Arnold kept the string parts simple, and incorporated plenty of doubling between parts. The craft was in the doing - while the art lay in the disguising of the doing, for the music betrays no obvious sign of contrivance. Quite the contrary - it carries as devastating a left hook as the most virtuosic of orchestral works. 

1.  Prelude: maestoso: Launching a melody fit to feed a full symphonic movement, and not so much showing his influences as showing off his influences, Arnold steers us through a Waltonian grandiloquence which dissolves disconcertingly into Shostakovichian introspection - but not, as we might expect, “and back again”. Instead, the music fades away, leaving us wondering if it was just a dream. 

2.  Dance: larghetto: By way of contrast, the utterly disarming central movement (originally entitled “Pastoral”) deposits us in a meadow of English Dances territory (except that they wouldn't be around for another three years!), all sunshine and buttercups - plus the occasional harmonic tussock. 

3.  March: allegro con brio: It's hat-holding time! This cracking quick-fire march needs little comment, other than the observations that Arnold's quick-witted tunefulness, that was to stand him in such good stead in his film career, is well in evidence and that he was clearly well aware just how much kids enjoy making a right old racket.
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© Paul Serotsky
29, Carr Street, Kamo, Whangarei 0101, Northland, New Zealand


 

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