Arnold: Symphony No. 5; Symphony No. 6

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Arnold
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Symphony No. 5; Symphony No. 6
PERFORMER: LSO/Richard Hickox
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9385 DDD
Few composers write more brilliantly and colourfully for the orchestra than Malcolm Arnold. These two symphonies show him at the peak of his powers, with cogent musical development of material which is always strongly characterised.

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The Symphony No. 5 (1961) is a challenging piece in the tradition of ‘conflict symphonies’; and even the composer in his own recording did not generate the momentum and sheer power that Hickox and the LSO achieve here. The slow movement has an expressive intensity worthy of Mahler, and the expert scoring emphasises the point. The rich glow of the orchestral sound – a tribute to both the players and the Chandos engineers – makes the return of this music towards the close of the work all the more fulfilling, so that the subsequent disintegration is really powerful in its expressive impact.

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Much of the Symphony No. 6 (1967) also has an undeniable darkness of mood. This is particularly so in the extensive slow movement, which is eloquently performed here. However, the jaunty theme of the rondo finale moves the work on to its ultimately triumphant conclusion. And the Hickox-LSO partnership is triumphant too, for these are splendid performances of music which deserves a much wider currency.