Originally published on December 22
Not long now until 2023, and specifically January 6, when this enjoyable Malcolm Arnold collection is released. You could spool to the end of the disc for The Padstow Lifeboat (a brass band original arranged for orchestra by Philip Lane), foot-tapper and earworm rolled into one, or start at the beginning with the colourful, jaunty and entertaining Commonwealth Christmas Overture, which has a Waltonian stream to it, just as the reflective and atmospheric Larch Trees may conjure Baxian images. Michael Collins is the splendid soloist, devouring plenty of notes, in the First Clarinet Concerto, music that turns on a sixpence in terms of mood and expression, severe one moment, cheeky the next. There’s also Divertimento No.2, which has plenty of vibrancy and contrasts – not vintage Arnold, maybe, but it’s unmistakably him – and the Philharmonic Concerto, a terrific piece composed for the London Philharmonic and Bernard Haitink (its first performance preserved on an LPO issue that also includes major works by John McCabe shared between Haitink and Solti); Rumon Gamba and the BBC Phil give a superb outing for this rollicking and (slow movement) bittersweet/eerie humdinger. Throughout, Stephen Rinker’s recorded sound (2019/22) is of the highest order. Chandos CHAN 20152 points to it being a Happy New Year.
Brilliant collection – for me, the Commonwealth Christmas Overture (composed to precede the (then) Queen’s Christmas Message to the Commonwealth, with its terrific main tune – and later entry of Jamaican Steel Bands – takes the plumb position here.
Yes A super coverage of some most enjoyable works that show our composer in a great light.
Both fun and a little darker in places.
A tonic in these straightened times. Good old Malcolm, master magician.