Arnold: Symphony No. 5; Divertimento No. 2; Machines

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Arnold
LABELS: Classico
WORKS: Symphony No. 5; Divertimento No. 2; Machines
PERFORMER: Munich SO/Douglas Bostock
CATALOGUE NO: CD 294
Douglas Bostock’s series of English works in performances by the Munich Symphony is an enterprising venture, especially as he champions unfashionable composers. The neglect of Malcolm Arnold, particularly his symphonies, by our concert-giving managements is shameful. Bostock’s interpretation of the Fifth is not quite as gripping as the composer’s own, recorded with the CBSO in 1972 (EMI), but it is well worth hearing and is strongly performed, although not as well recorded. Composed in 1961, the first movement is a homage to the composer’s dead friends and colleagues, the clarinettist Frederick Thurston, the horn-player Dennis Brain and the tuba-player, artist and humorist Gerard Hoffnung. The anguished outburst at the end of the movement, after evocative writing for horn, clarinet and celesta, can be heard as a protest at their early deaths, while the slow movement has rare elegiac depth and expressiveness. The beautiful melody of the Andante returns, Elgar-fashion, at the end of the finale only to die away defeated.

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Four other Arnold works are on the disc, ranging with versatility from his mechanistic 1948 music for a documentary about steel nationalisation to a suite from the score for a St Trinians film. More substantial are the Divertimento No. 2 and the Sarabande and Polka from the MacMillan ballet Solitaire. If the Sarabande nods in over-familiar fashion to Ravel’s ‘infante défunte’, this reviewer feels no compunction to complain. Michael Kennedy