With regard to Dutton's choice of music by Malcolm Arnold I know that there are other considerations to bear in mind. My own views-as reflected in Rob's comments-have been rehearsed as nauseam on various music forums. I have never been in a position to purchase multiple copies of the same piece. I fully respect those who welcome the opportunity to compare and contrast alternative readings. The views of those who do this are of enormous interest to me and to most music lovers. Ultimately, and particularly as I get older, I grow increasingly impatient to hear unrecorded repertoire.
Dutton has done a quite incredible amount for the cause of British Music and I am sure will continue to do so. We are hugely in their debt. My reservations about the issue of previously recorded British music (like the Arnold and like the apparently forthcoming issue of violin concertos by Delius and Britten) are, I hope, politely expressed and do not diminish my very considerable respect and regard for the company. Dutton is, in common with all record labels, under continuing and severe financial pressure. It MAY be that there was a source of funding specifically for the Arnold disc. And, for those who are happy to be able to compare Martin Yates with Handley, Gamba and Penney in Symphony No.7, the disc will undoubtedly be welcome.
I do wish however, speaking entirely personally, that the company could turn to those British composers so sadly neglected on disc. I have consistently and, no doubt, very boringly, trumpeted on music forums the claims of Arnold Cooke, William Wordsworth,Daniel Jones, Iain Hamilton and Peter Racine Fricker. These are weighty composers of genuine substance. Their music may not have the more instant appeal of the more "romantic" music of, say, Stanley Bate or Richard Arnell (both of whom I admire immensely!)but we should have much more of these composers on disc. I hope that I am not being indiscreet in saying that even my good friend, the late Malcolm MacDonald, was a trifle bemused that virtually every note of orchestral music composed by John Foulds was being committed to disc.
Regarding Arnold and the Seventh Symphony...I admit to finding Arnold's own 1977 performance almost impossible to listen to. By extending (dragging out!) the symphony to over 50 minutes the piece wallows in despair to a degree which makes it virtually intolerable. I did read somewhere about Richard Hickox's unwillingness to record the symphony but if this was in fact untrue then I apologise unreservedly to that fine conductor's memory.
Given the agonising travails of Arnold's life, reflected-as has been said-to varying degrees in music written throughout his life I too find the Ninth Symphony and, specifically, the long Lento Finale both heartbreakingly beautiful and a wonderful conclusion to the composer's huge musical output. There are some similarities in fact between that movement and the finale of Richard Arnell's Symphony No.7, as completed by the estimable Martin Yates. After the earlier turbulence and (relative) "modernity" of the rest of the symphony Arnell's music returns to the warm and hugely affecting romanticism of the earlier symphonies in triumph but also very much in conclusion. Malcolm Arnold's Ninth is an extraordinary work-the spare/sparse scoring of the three short movements followed by an almost Mahlerian finale which seems to bring a peace so hard-fought for. Yes, there is a sadness in the music, a bleak intensity but this is a composer who surely has at last and at least come to terms with those demons which had haunted his life for so long. The hectic frenzy, the (sometimes) forced jollity has departed and the music and its composer have reached some kind of conclusive finality. I would urge anyone to listen to it.
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