Arnold - Complete Symphonies and Dances | Naxos 8506041

Arnold - Complete Symphonies and Dances

£28.76 £23.00

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Label: Naxos

Cat No: 8506041

Format: CD

Number of Discs: 6

Genre: Orchestral

Release Date: 22nd October 2021



Recorded in the presence of the composer, Andrew Penny’s survey of the Complete Symphonies and Dances by Sir Malcolm Arnold has long been considered to contain benchmark recordings. Born in 1921, Sir Malcolm Arnold quickly established himself as a fluent and versatile composer, a gifted tunesmith and a brilliant orchestrator. His music is typically lucid in texture, rich in melody and clear in draughtsmanship yet there are frequent signs of a complex musical personality and dramatic tensions not far beneath the surface. The Dances are light-hearted, vivid and jaunty, yet the nine symphonies explore the composer’s darker side, painting a picture of his private ‘journey through hell’ as he struggled with physical and mental health issues. They are masterworks which exert continued appeal and stimulate repeated listening.

Andrew Penny has made over 50 recordings for the Naxos and Marco Polo labels. Much of the repertoire is British music and includes symphonies by Arnold and Havergal Brian, film music by Vaughan Williams and Walton, theatre music by Sullivan and Holbrooke, and light music by Coates and Arnold. His complete cycle of Arnold’s nine symphonies was produced in time for the composer’s 80th birthday in October 2001 and became BBC Music Magazine’s top recommendation. Penny has been on the instrumental music staff at Hymers College since 1977 and is the longest serving musical director of the Hull Philharmonic Orchestra. He was awarded the MBE for services to music in the Queen’s Birthday Honours of 2014.

This is the second appearance of this box of Sir Malcolm Arnold’s Symphonies – see the earlier box on 8505178, though this new one includes the Dances. This reissue coincides with the 2021 centenary of Arnold’s birth.

The set received very good reviews. Gramophone said: ‘Drawing some consistently bright-eyed, agreeably polished playing from his useful Dublin band, Andrew Penny brings a clear-headed perception to Sir Malcolm Arnold’s uniquely rewarding symphonic odyssey... a notable achievement and terrific value for money. Excellent presentation too.’ added: ‘This set arguably constitutes the best series of recordings in the Naxos catalogue – performances of uniformly high quality made in the presence of the composer and recorded with more realistic balances and cleaner textures than any of their rivals’.

International Record Review also commented: ‘Andrew Penny’s ability to take the long view over the five years during which this cycle was recorded, the steadiness and responsiveness of the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland… The determination of all concerned has resulted in there now being available at super-budget price a body of work second to none.’

2021 has also seen the expansion and reissue of Alan Poulton’s book Malcolm Arnold: Catalogue of Works with a foreword by Julian Lloyd Webber – an indispensable book for Arnold admirers.

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