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Sir Malcolm ARNOLD
Classic film scores

The Roots of Heaven (1958)
David Copperfield (1970)
Moscow Symphony Orchestra/William Stromberg
Recorded at the Mosfilm Studio, Moscow, 4-7 April 2000
MARCO POLO 8.225167 [62:09]
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I recently gave a warm welcome to a Chandos disc of Arnold's film music which presented a wide-ranging selection of self-contained excerpts from his vast output for cinema: in essence, the music was more important than the films for which it was written. Here, Marco Polo presents, what I take to be, all the music Arnold wrote for The Roots of Heaven and David Copperfield. Its brilliance as film-music is beyond question; but hearing it in this fashion as music per se is an unrewarding experience. The Roots of Heaven is particularly unsatisfactory: of the twenty tracks (lasting 33:59 minutes in total) only four exceed two minutes in length, and many of them come to an abrupt end. The David Copperfield music is slightly less fragmentary (13 tracks occupy 28:04 minutes), and Arnold's mastery of miniature forms is here more fulfilled.

I think I'm right in saying that Arnold churned out his film scores (something like five a year for over 20 years) because he needed the cash. Knowing his great achievements in the larger forms of symphony and concerto, one is not surprised to find that when his financial circumstances at last permitted him to do so, he deserted the cinema in 1970, never to return. For one of the frustrations of writing for the cinema must be the tyranny of the stopwatch. Arnold was unsurpassed in submitting to this tyranny, but his muse must have suffered in the process.

Still, this is a disc to recommend for two reasons. It comes with by far the lengthiest and most informative booklet I have ever encountered: the making of the two films is described in great detail, as is Arnold's involvement in the process; and the biographical information goes much beyond the subject immediately in hand. The second reason is this: the disc is as comprehensive a guide as you could wish for to Arnold's unique melodic, harmonic and orchestral world.

Performance and recording: excellent.

Adrian Smith

See also reviews by Ian Lace and Gary Dalkin on Film Music on the Web

Visit the Malcolm Arnold Website

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