Arnold, Maconchy, Britten

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COMPOSERS: Arnold,Britten,Maconchy
LABELS: Hyperion Helios
WORKS: Clarinet Concerto No. 1; Clarinet Concerto No. 2
PERFORMER: Thea King (clarinet); ECO/Barry Wordsworth
CATALOGUE NO: CDH 55060 Reissue (1992)
EMI’s celebration of Malcolm Arnold’s 80th birthday is a generous selection of Seventies performances, all well played and recorded, of orchestral music spanning the period 1950-66. While the English Dances can be enjoyed for their uncomplicated tunefulness and orchestral brilliance, the Sinfoniettas and even the early Serenade are less straightforward, shot through with an unease and tension which are equally characteristic of the composer.

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Hyperion’s disc of British clarinet concertos includes earlier and later Arnold: the substantial First Concerto dedicated to Frederick Thurston, and the Second dedicated to Benny Goodman (with a final, riotous ‘pre-Goodman Rag’). These are complemented by Elizabeth Maconchy’s two tautly argued Concertinos, the first written for Thurston, and Colin Matthews’s reconstruction of the fascinating torso of a concerto which Britten started writing for Goodman in 1942. Thea King (Thurston’s widow) is fluent and incisive, and the ECO and Barry Wordsworth provide first-rate support. Anthony Burton