Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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MALCOLM ARNOLD Music for Wind Symphony Band Dallas Wind Symphony / Jerry Junkin REFERENCE RECORDINGS RR-66CD [66:24]



Arnold, as a lapsed trumpet player, seems a natural for the brass band. And so it proves here in a collection that some may have wondered about simply because of the US origin of the performers. Point 1: this is a stunning performance and is recorded to match: lots of bass extension and raspberry ripe tone for the blatant moments and plenty of subtlety for the poetry. Point 2: if any music is to survive and succeed internationally it needs to find acceptance amongst the best in other countries and so it proves here.

This is a generous collection and is well worth adding to your Arnold collection. Those who love the symphonies and the film music need not feel short-changed or put off. The music is played not for brass band specialists (this is after all for wind symphony anyway!) but for lovers of good music and especially of Arnold's gorgeous tunesmithery.

The excellent notes are by Frank Byrne are in English only and very good they are too, spanning 10pp.

The Four Scottish Dances (1957) are arranged by John P Paynter. The performance takes the first Pesante with so much deliberation that it grinds almost to a halt. The cheeky-chappy vivace is given for what it is: dotty and jumpy music, perhaps slightly absurd. The highlight of the set is the Hebridean allegretto and, yes, the harp IS there aiding one of Arnold's greatest tunes. This tune is up there with symphonies 1, 5 and 8 and the oboe concerto. I came to know these dances through the old Everest LP (complete with tartan Highland dancer's feet and sgian dubh) and I am afraid the third symphony with which it was coupled left me rather cold (and always has) however the Dances are treasures. The final con brio is given with brio indeed, swaying agreeably in the whiskey-soaked gale just like the wheezy Tam O'Shanter.

Overseas (1960) is a Sousa-phile march. It is of small standing but this is its first recording. The Little Suite No. 1 (1965) has a Prelude which announces the grand skies open before us in a glory of brass fanfares; then relaxes into the Siciliano with its tambourine and Yorkshire cornet recollections. The final Rondo is a knockabout march imbued with the spirit of show-business.

Tam (1955) is well handled in all its red-nosed, shambling Sorcerers apprentice way and it is not short of Sibelian allusions either. This music cross-fertilised with the film music for Hobson's Choice.

Water Music (1964) is also I believe a first and only recording. Its allegro maestoso rises from the rich dark side of the symphonies. The andantino is a gentle English Dances saunter at sunset. The vivace has Purcellian grandeur and even a touch of cowboy open spaces; not entirely a matter of Dallas-accent.

The Padstow Lifeboat (1967) is a march which takes me back to childhood holidays in North Cornwall at Treyarnon Bay and Constantine Sands, with the ghostly foghorn clearly audible on the days when it rained and fogged. It is again rather a Sousa-like event but has admixed a slow ripe winding and releasing power pent and unpent. Marine spray and fog and monstrous seas are never far afield.

The Little Suite No. 2 (1966) starts with a pesante which is deliberate and slightly clodhopping. The little cavatina is redolent of Cornish deserted moors, haunted mines and ghostly Isoldes. The finale is a French style vaudeville - knockabout like Sondheim's crazies from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

The Louis fanfare 1970 is for trumpets alone. Despite the Armstrong dedication it has little jazziness perhaps bluesy if anything. It is all rather rolling, rough, tough and pert. Originally for two trumpets it is given here with four.

The Four English Dances (1950) are as arranged by Maurice Johnstone whose Tarn Hows for orchestra is getting better known due to the recent and wonderful ASV disc. The andantino is a contented wander. The vivace is full of bell carillons in the form of a round set amidst swirling Waltonian splendour and a Moeran-inspired skirl. The mesto has a dark bassoon solo and an epic RVW-style trudging march made to seem even more of a more of a superhuman achievement by the phenomenal breath control of the Dallas band. The farewell allegro is a crashing and whooping rumpus of glorious abandon.

HRH Duke of Cambridge (1957) is another first suggesting the friendship with Walton and then linking with Arnold's 5th symphony and the Peterloo Overture. Crown Imperial's swirling flutes are there as is a touch also of Goodwin (Battle of Britain) and even Dvorak.

The Orchestra is never in less than cracking form and they are recorded in a very impressive soundstage.

Warmly commended by a listener not normally well disposed to the brass band.


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

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