Arnold: Symphony No 3; Symphony No 4

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Arnold
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Symphony No 3; Symphony No 4
PERFORMER: National SO of Ireland/Andrew Penny
CATALOGUE NO: 8.553739
Arnold writes so colourfully for the orchestra that it is tempting to overlook the cogency of his symphonic thinking. Both these symphonies find him at the peak of his powers, with imaginative development of material which is always strongly characterised.

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The Naxos recording serves the composer well. Details are cleanly articulated, and climaxes certainly pack a punch. For this, credit is also due to Andrew Penny and the Irish orchestra, who are at the peak of their form.

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The Symphony No. 3 remains as fresh as the day it was written, communicating directly while avoiding triviality. As so often in Arnold’s music, there are darker issues lurking beneath the surface, and these emerge fiercely at the close. In the Fourth (1960), the same dictum applies. Its exuberance and large percussion battery resulted from an attempt to fuse Caribbean rhythmic vitality with the English symphonic tradition. He wanted to show, in the wake of the Notting Hill race riots, that the two cultures could live in harmony with one another. The result is a colourful and appealing score which generates a real symphonic momentum besides. All these strengths are found in Penny’s performance on this highly successful disc. Terry Barfoot