One of the most grown-up review sites around

52,000 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

  Founder: Len Mullenger             Editor in Chief: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider

Yes we are selling
Acte Prealable again!
£11 post-free

we also sell Skarbo

and Oboe Classics


with Eggebrecht we get all the excitement we can handle

Book 1 Book 2 Book3
Mota The Triptych: -Website

Asmik Grigorian

Breathtaking Performance
controversial staging
Review Westbrook
Review Hedley
Every lover of Salome should see this recording
Mullenger interpretation

absolutely thrilling

immediacy and spontaneity

Schumann Lieder

24 Preludes
one of the finest piano discs

‘Box of Delights.’

J S Bach A New Angle
Organ fans form an orderly queue

a most welcome issue

I enjoyed it tremendously

the finest traditions of the house

music for theorbo
old and new

John Luther Adams
Become Desert
concealing a terrifying message

ground-breaking, winning release

screams quality

Surprise of the month

English Coronation, 1902-1953
magnificent achievement

REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers

We are currently offering in excess of 52,000 reviews

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels

Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Sir Malcolm ARNOLD (1921-2006)
Four Scottish Dances, Op. 59 (1957) [9:35]
Symphony No. 3, Op. 63 (1957) [34:51]
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Malcolm Arnold
rec. November 1958, Walthamstow Assembly Hall, London, UK
Reviewed as 24/96 download from HDtracks
Pdf liner-notes included

Readers of a certain age will remember Everest Records, which made a clutch of fine recordings vetween 1958 and 1960. The brainchild of Harry D. Belock and Bert Whyte the US label was known for its superior sonics and roster of artists, among them Leopold Stokowski, William Steinberg, Sir Adrian Boult and Sir Malcolm Sargent. Their recording of the other Sir Malcolm’s Four Scottish Dances and Symphony No. 3 has had several incarnations – appropriately, Phoenix was one of them – but now the Everest catalogue has been re-mastered and reissued by Countdown Media. Rob Barnett welcomed the first tranche of discs, which are also available as high-res downloads from HDtracks and as aacs from iTunes.
It’s outrageous that Arnold’s music is still neglected in Britain, so we must be grateful for the advocacy of Vernon Handley (Conifer), Andrew Penny (Naxos) and Richard Hickox and Rumon Gamba (Chandos). All are splendid in this repertoire, although it’s Tod Handley who gets my vote more often than anyone else. He has a rare feel for this music, its wit and unnerving asides, and his cycle – recorded in the 1990s – is in excellent sound. However, the composer was no mean conductor himself, so this Everest reissue deserves our attention too.
Typically the Four Scottish Dances couldn’t be further from the twee Brigadoon style of national nonsense favoured by Hollywood; these are trenchant, rhythmically robust tunes that are unmistakably Arnoldian in their skirl and skitter. The LPO play this music with great verve and the clean, detailed sound of this re-master is most appealing. Only the brass at the close of the first dance sounds a tad strained; otherwise timbres are true and there’s a decent sense of space around the notes. The harp in the gorgeous third dance is especially well caught, as are the yearning upper strings. The wild fourth dance is as thrilling as it gets.
Arnold’s Third Symphony is not the sunniest of works; indeed, even the first movement displays the sudden shifts of mood that we hear elsewhere in his oeuvre. Those Ealing comedy moments are very well handled here – Hickox is polished but perhaps a little too controlled at times – and the quality of Arnold’s writing is as startling as ever. I’m very impressed by the width and depth of the stereo image and the original Everest team’s ability to pick out telling touches in the most natural and unobtrusive way. The oom-pah brass writing is a special treat; also, Arnold’s sharp nudges and sly winks have seldom seemed so louche.
Behind this distracting façade lurks something much darker, as the middle movement demonstrates. The LPO strings are marvellous here and the sour brass is deeply unsettling. Handley certainly captures this strange, twilight sound world very well; Hickox is somewhat po-faced by comparison. Arnold’s account of this movement is the bleakest of them all. The mask is back on for the cantering finale, whose blend of weight and sparkle has seldom sounded so engaging. Perhaps Handley binds it all together better – he offers a more obvious narrative, if you will – but Arnold makes the most of the symphony’s subversive side. The original, very informative sleeve notes by Paul Affelder round off a quality package.
A classic reborn; Arnoldians rejoice!
Dan Morgan

Review index: Arnold symphonies