Dan does not appear to be overly impressed by this new Martin Yates version. He discusses the issue of timing. This is a feature of the Seventh Symphony about which I have written elsewhere. With apologies to anyone who has read this previously, I reproduce those comments:
"Sir Malcolm Arnold's later music divides opinion. During the later 1960s and the 1970s his music becomes angry, bitter, despondent-very much in accord with the mental torment from which he was suffering as a result of his turbulent life and lifestyle. This development in Arnold's style and idiom was so disconcerting to many who enjoyed the easier-going, lyrical music for which he was previously well-know-although, indeed, there was always a distinct touch of angst in even Arnold's earlier, "lighter" music. Disconcerting to an extent that the late Richard Hickox, who had committed the first six Arnold symphonies to disc for Chandos, appears to have refused to record Symphonies Nos. 7-9. For a conductor with such a broad repertoire in British Music this was perhaps surprising, but Hickox apparently found himself completely out of sympathy with the last three Arnold symphonies.
Rumon Gamba replaced Hickox and recorded these symphonies for Chandos. The late Vernon Handley recorded Symphonies Nos. 7 and 8 for Conifer. Andrew Penney recorded the complete set for Naxos-apparently with the composer's approval.
Symphony No.7 was written in 1973 and, despite being partly written on Walton's beautiful island of Ischia, it is not a "beautiful" work. Critics and listeners find the Seventh Symphony a difficult work. What is the symphony "about"? What is Arnold trying to say? Symphony No.7 under Gamba clocks in at 31.52 minutes. Handley, at a more measured pace, takes 37.43 minutes. The differences are most noticeable in the first and second movements in which Handley takes three minutes longer than Gamba.
Andrew Penney maintains the same sort of extended timings as Handley. In fact the timings are virtually identical. Penney recorded the symphony in Ireland in 2000 in the presence of the composer.
Arnold himself conducted the first broadcast performance of the symphony in 1977 with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. The performance lasts for precisely 50.29 minutes.
This is is over 12 minutes longer than Handley and Penney and almost 20 minutes longer than Gamba.
The effect is to turn the symphony into an almost different composition. Was this Arnold's original conception? Did he so radically revise his views about the symphony over the following 23 years that the (approved) Penney version represents a composer whose life had gone through an intervening period of absolute hell, from which he had been rescued, that he no longer wished "the agony" which the symphony appears to embody to be so protracted and extended? Is the "interpretation" of the music by its composer open to such revision? Obviously the answer would appear to be that it is.
And if a conductor was to conduct the work today, using a score which-to my knowledge- has not been revised, whose metronome markings, presumably, remain the same, as Arnold had himself interpreted the symphony back in 1977 would we be saying "how dreadfully slow, how agonisingly despairing this work is, how much 'better' it sounds on disc!"
And, if we did, would the composer's own intentions-as represented in his own first broadcast performance (four years after the work had been composed and at a time when the composer's state of mind was so similar to that it had been when he wrote it)-be no longer "valid"?"
In light of the fact that Yates clocks in at 31.13 minutes the points I made seem even more pointed. Twenty minutes shorter than Arnold himself took the work!!
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