Thomas Arne

COMPOSERS: Thomas Arne
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Eight Overtures; Thomas and Sally Overture; Alfred Overture
PERFORMER: Collegium Musicum 90/ Simon Standage
There was always more to Thomas Arne than ‘Rule Britannia’, ‘Where the Bee Sucks’ or the dances from Comus. His contemporaries certainly thought so, off and on. And directors seeking a bridge between the ubiquities of Handel and Mozart could do worse than take a peek at Artaxerxes, England’s first fully-fledged opera seria and an ear-opener for Haydn who heard the piece in 1791. Its premiere followed hot on the heels of Thomas and Sally, whose overture here prefaces Simon Standage’s latest rehabilitation of the good Doctor.


The meat (if that’s not overstating the case) is provided by the Eight Overtures published in 1751: recyclings culled from a prodigious output of theatre music – much of it attractive enough listening without exactly setting the blood racing. Standage captures the poise and gentility, and there’s plenty of scurrying vivacity in the Allegro to No. 6; and bite, too, in the horn-enriched Overture No. 3. For all Collegium 90’s attentive pointing, however, Arne’s favourite ‘con spirito’ marking is sometimes a tad short-changed – though not in the Giga to No. 6, an Overture distinctly a cut above from first note to last. The recorded sound is invitingly ‘natural’. Paul Riley