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
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.