The Refiner's fire
BASIL RAMSEY with
Malcolm Arnold's symphonies
Malcolm Arnold the composer is mercurial, which accords with his habit
of throwing disparate compositional elements into a refiner's fire. It is
done with skill out of his long experience as an orchestral player and years
as a composer generating a creative character that accords with the man.
Somebody once said that Sir Malcolm resembles a musical version of Charles
Dickens, which undoubtedly is as shrewd as you can get.
Symphony 5's first movement is a rugged example of the material
and development Arnold welds together with the skill and wry humour of a
fine craftsman [listen -- track 1, 3:31-4:15].
The slow movement should drop a homage figure into your mind, but
lose no sleep if not [listen -- track 2, 0:00-0:55].
Now out into brilliant sun as the scherzo swaggers and snarls its
defiance. In consequence the finale is extremely touchy and makes even more
noise in herding the defiant mobsters captive before the big tune proclaims
itself king, only to collapse as the orchestra extinguishes light and sound.
Malcolm Arnold's sixth symphony can, from its character, come from nobody
but he. Again, it is the ebullient yet sensitive composer within Malcolm
Arnold speaking urgently and emotively of matters entrenched in the
mind. That he uses a wide range of techniques does not detract from
the stylistic apparel familiar to us.
Copyright © 4 July 2001
Basil Ramsey, Eastwood, Essex, UK
CD INFORMATION - NAXOS 8.552000
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