Arnold (1921-) - Suite: Little Suite No. 1
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.
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.
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
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.
© Paul Serotsky
29, Carr Street,
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