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Mr Takeshi Miyagawa

An Arnold Celebration
Malcolm ARNOLD (b. 1921)

Prelude, Siciliano and Rondo Op. 80 (arr. John P. Paynter)
Tam O’ Shanter Overture Op. 51 (arr. John P. Paynter)
Concertino for Saxophone and Winds (arr. Mamoru Nakata)
The Inn of the Sixth Happiness: Suite from the film (arr. Munetoshi Senoo)
Peterloo Overture Op. 87 (arr. Hisaatsu Kondo)
Little Suite No. 1 Op. 53 (arr. Denis Bloodworth)
Sarabande and Polka from Solitaire (arr. John P. Paynter)
March: HRH the Duke of Cambridge Op. 60
Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra/Douglas Bostock
Recorded at Sun Azalea, Saitama, March 2001, DDD


Although British born and strongly dedicated to the performance of British music, conductor Douglas Bostock has spent much of his career working overseas. Consequently he is probably best known in the United Kingdom for his work on the Danish ClassicO label. Amongst his recordings of British repertoire for the label are two discs dedicated to the music of Arnold, although sadly financial difficulties appear to have cut short what promised to be a highly interesting series of discs.

This is the first of several discs to be reviewed for Musicweb showcasing Bostock’s association with the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra, an ensemble of which he has been principal conductor since January 2001. He is in illustrious company for one of his predecessors was Frederick Fennell, the founder of the Eastman Wind Ensemble, who after a lengthy period at the helm became Conductor Laureate of the band from 1996.

There is, in reality, only one original work for the medium represented, namely the brief March that Arnold wrote in 1957 to celebrate the centenary of the Royal Military School of Music at Kneller Hall. As Douglas Bostock points out in his booklet note the works do transcribe well for the medium although I have to confess that I did find myself missing the atmosphere of Arnold’s deft orchestration in the two most well known works: the overtures Tam O’ Shanter and Peterloo.

What is equally and immediately striking is the impressive quality of the playing from the band, who are clearly a crack ensemble. From the very opening Bostock gets them right inside the music and the result is never less than exciting.

The Prelude, Siciliano and Rondo that opens the disc was originally written for brass band with the title Little Suite for Brass and indeed both of the "Little Suites" are heard more regularly played by band or youth orchestra. Both have figured as test pieces in the lower brass band divisions on numerous occasions being undemanding in terms of virtuosity but favoured for their characteristic and abundant tunefulness. As is often the case with Arnold however, the undertones can be considerably darker than is immediately apparent and in the case of the Little Suite No. 1, its origins were in a piece originally conceived in memory of the composer’s brother, who lost his life in the war. The result is nonetheless highly attractive. From the other suite the gently lilting Siciliano is particularly memorable, simple and fleeting but quintessential Arnold in its haunting melody.

The Sarabande and Polka from the ballet, Solitaire will be well known to Arnold fans and as with the Siciliano, the Sarabande is once again notable for its disarming beauty. The Polka is very much Arnold in "St. Trinians" mode. Perhaps of greater interest is the suite devised from the music Arnold wrote for the film, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness starring Ingrid Bergman. Here the arrangement does indeed work notably well. The London-inspired fanfares of the first movement are heard once again in more subdued mood during the course of the ensuing second movement Romance. The third and most substantial movement again makes reference to the opening material although the central section of the movement comprises a highly entertaining march constructed around "This Old Man", building to a triumphant conclusion where the tune is combined with the now familiar "London" music.

Of greater interest still to Arnold aficionados will be the only real rarity on the disc, the Concertino for Saxophone and Winds. Its unfamiliarity is largely due to its unusual history, first seeing the light of day as a piano sonata in 1942 when the composer was just twenty-one. For many years it was overlooked and was not performed until 1984. Subsequently in 1994, composer David Ellis undertook an arrangement for saxophone and strings. The version given here now carries the definitive title, scored for a modest ensemble of double wind quintet with the addition of trumpet, trombone and double bass. The mood is predominantly serious, the first of the three movements being the most substantial and proceeding from an understated though dark opening via passages of alternating lyricism and occasional introspection. The underlying mood does not fundamentally change in the brief central Andante con moto, albeit with fleeting glimpses of sunlight through the sadness. The final march has a somewhat neo-classical feel combined with a grotesquery that gives the impression of Arnold cocking a tongue in cheek snook at the major musical figures of the day, notably Hindemith and Kurt Weill. In reality it’s not vintage Arnold but still manages to entertain through the course of its ten minute or so duration.

Certainly a disc that anyone with an interest in Arnold should consider acquiring. All the more attractive for the polished and exciting performances.

Christopher Thomas


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