WORKS: Beckus the Dandipratt; Water Music; Anniversary Overture; Philharmonic Concerto
PERFORMER: BBC Concert Orchestra/Vernon Handley
CATALOGUE NO: 75605 51298 2
This collection of Arnold’s shorter pieces gives the impression of almost relentless vivacity. His use of brass, timpani, and assorted percussion to create a magnificent and celebratory atmosphere is deft but unsparing. The Flourish for Orchestra, full of jubilant bells and close-knit brass fanfares, is by no means the only piece to deserve such a title. Both the Anniversary Overture and Beckus the Dandipratt carry the hallmarks of Arnold’s distinctively jaunty style. The BBC Concert Orchestra enters into the spirit of the music, relishing the unctuous string glissandi and throbbing accompaniments that suggest the ebullience of the ‘big band’ sound. It is no understatement when Arnold declares that the Philharmonic Concerto was written with ‘as much brilliance as I am able to muster’. Even Water Music, which began life as a wind serenade to be played on a barge, emerges in the composer’s version for full orchestra with enough percussion to sink an armada.
But for all their orchestral brilliance, these pieces are not ‘light’ music in the same way as Arnold’s marches and film music. Vernon Handley coaxes generous and accurate performances from the orchestra but with the exception of the Peterloo Overture, whose noble but angst-ridden tune could stand alongside any number of Pomp and Circumstances, the harmonies are somewhat arid and the melodies too fickle to enter the pantheon of popular music. Christopher Lambton