Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

The Film Music of Sir Malcolm Arnold
(volume 2)
Suite from Trapeze; Overture from The Roots of Heaven; Symphonic Study Machines; Suite from No Love for Johnnie; Suite from David Copperfield; Scherzetto from You Know What Sailors Are; Ballade from Stolen Face; Comedy Suite from The Belles of St Trinian's; Fantasy on Christmas Carols from The Holly and the Ivy; Postcard from the Med from The Captain's Paradise.
Phillip Dyson (piano) BBC Philharmonic/Rumon Gamba
Recorded in Studio 7, New Broadcasting House, Manchester in February and July 2000.
CHANDOS CHAN 9851 [78.69]
Crotchet   AmazonUK   AmazonUS

In 1969 Malcolm Arnold decided that he would write no more film scores. By then he had averaged five such scores a year over a period of 22 years, but by the same year he also had six symphonies and a host of other works to his credit. No wonder that such a prodigious work rate was subsequently to take its toll on his physical and emotional health in the 1970s.

He clearly regarded his film scores as ephemera (and more importantly, no doubt, as a ready source of income): he recycled only a handful of them for concert use, and the scores and parts of most have long been lost. In recent times, first Christopher Palmer and now Philip Lane have set about recreating some of these scores, and these reconstructions figure prominently in this second album of Arnold's film music. No doubt the process has been explained elsewhere, but it would have been helpful to be told in the booklet accompanying this disc exactly what the terms 'arranged', 'orchestrated' and 'reconstructed' mean. As it is, one is left wondering how much of the music is pure Malcolm Arnold. The tunes and harmonies, certainly - the structures less so.

Given the sheer number of these film scores, it's hardly surprising that inspiration sometimes gave way to auto-pilot (The Holly and the Ivy is a case in point: a rather laboured and shapeless Christmas medley).

Nevertheless this disc contains many vintage Arnold trademarks which left me purring with satisfaction at the composer's wealth of melodic invention (there's a particularly wonderful 'big tune' in David Copperfield) and his gift for witty characterisation (the Elephant Waltz from Trapeze, brilliantly scored for tuba and trombones, the Micawbers' scattiness neatly captured in David Copperfield, the hilarious clarinet scherzetto from You Know What Sailors Are and, of course all five extracts from The Belles of St Trinian's, particularly its bizarrely orchestrated March).

Like many others, I continue to be angered by the snooty attitude to Arnold's music which still emanates from certain sections of the musical establishment (and not only the Controller of the BBC Proms); for, as the recently updated discography issued by the Malcolm Arnold Society indicates, no other living English composer has had so much of his huge output committed to disc - and there's no sign of the flood drying up. The record companies clearly know they're on to a good thing.

So, a warm welcome to this splendidly entertaining disc, brilliantly performed and recorded by Gamba and the BBC Phil, and featuring fine soloists in Phillip Dyson (pianist in Stolen Face) and John Bradbury (clarinettist in You Know What Sailors Are).

Adrian Smith

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