Saturday, December 04, 2010

Arnold, eccentric Englishman

Even if you have not heard of the composer Malcolm Arnold (1921-2006), you must have heard his music in movies such as The bridge on the river Kwai or Hobsons' choice. Apart from his film music, he composed inter alia  nine symphonies (not my favourites), seventeen concertos (light-weight, but very pleasant), and eleven overtures. Especially in the latter form, he forged his reputation of eccentricity: his Commonwealth Christmas Overture features a prominent part for steel band, and his notorious A Grand, Grand Overture was composed for three vacuum cleaners, one floor polisher, four rifles and orchestra. All in all though, the best introduction to his music is via his dance suites, light but delightful music based on English dances (two sets, 1950/1951), Scottish dances (1957), Cornish dances (1966), Irish dances (1986) and Welsh dances (1988). In a tremendous bargain, the Naxos CD I link to collects them altogether for the first time, as played by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra under Andrew Penny. An undervalued composer, well worth checking out.