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Malcolm Arnold: Dances

4.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Arnold, M.: Dances
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Product details

  • Conductor: Bryden Thomson
  • Composer: Malcolm Arnold
  • Audio CD (1 Oct. 1999)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Chandos
  • ASIN: B000000AL5
  • Other Editions: Audio Cassette  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 42,891 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Customer Reviews

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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Back in the late 1950's my father steadily accrued a substantial collection of Classical and Jazz music on vinyl L.P., most of which was still recorded in mono. The first stereo L.P. was apparently released in 1958 and then in 1982, stereo Compact Discs hit the market. Slowly but surely he inevitably began acquiring shiny new Classical C.D.'s as direct replacements, so perhaps inevitably the L.P.'s were relegated to the 'back-burner', so-to-speak.

Then tragically one day (and entirely unbeknown to me) he decided to dispose of the vast majority of his L.P. collection, which he generously donated to a jumble-sale at our local church. Aaaarghh....had I been aware of the situation, I could at least have intervened, but it was obviously too late in the day to do anything about it.

This brings me round to the electrifying performance of Sir Malcolm Arnold's Eight English Dances. The first time I ever experienced this joyous music was on a fabulous mono L.P. (A Concert of English Music - Decca *Ace of Clubs ACL.113 - see attached photos) featuring the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sir Adrian Boult. I vividly recall hearing the First Set Op. 27 consisting of four dances, followed directly by the Second Set Op. 53 containing the remainder.

The first movement of the Second Set Op. 53 (Allegro non troppo), was used from 1969 to 2008 as the theme music for the long-running UK television programme ‘What the Papers Say’, and is being used again now that the programme has been revived on BBC Radio Four.

Side A of the record concluded with a simply magical rendition of Sir Arnold Bax’s profound piece Tintagel, recorded at the Kingsway Hall in London during 1955, also with the afore-mentioned L.P.O.
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Format: Audio CD
This CD represented my first encounter with Arnold's music and it was love at first sight. This recording of the Dances is probably superior to all others on the market. The perfectly judged tempos and the brilliant sound somewhat push in the background even the very good Lyrita recording directed by Arnold himself. Who will arrive to the Thomson's recording after the Arnold's one will be shocked at first because the very different tempos in some movements. Just compare the Andantino of the Cornish set on the two recordings: 2 min 25 for the Thomson's versus 4 min 30 s for the Arnold's. In tighting bolts and washers, however, Thomson allows Arnold's music to resplend in all its transparency and allure. Only in the Allegretto of the Scottish set Arnold's more lyric approach is much to be preferred to Thomson's breakneck speed. In conclusion, buy both recordings.
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Beautiful
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Very interesting research into folk and national dances, well performed by the orchestra. We wanted one particular piece from the CD for a funeral as the lady in question was particularly fond of the piece.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)

Amazon.com: 4.9 out of 5 stars 8 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A really enjoyable recording 16 Oct. 2010
By G.D. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Malcolm Arnold's two sets of English Dances were in many ways his compositional breakthrough, and they are quite delightful miniatures - almost vignette-like, charming, wonderfully colorful, memorably tuneful and quite expertly scored. They are truly wonderful contributions to the repertoire of charming, lighter but still substantial music that encompasses such works as Dvorak's Slavonic Dances and Tchaikovsky's ballet suites. The Scottish Dances that followed a couple of years later are perhaps even more delightful in their semi-folksy, spirited and unabashedly romantic idiom; atmospheric works with several wonderful themes - conservative for their time yet personal in idiom and really sounding like little else. The Cornish Dances are somewhat more troubled - the melodies do not flow as easily and the mood is more overcast and bitingly ironic; the music is still quite beautiful but in a less off-handed manner. The Irish Dances are even more shadowy - the traces of careless joy are rarely allowed to bubble to the surface, and if they do they are soon quenched by something more serious. They are still beautiful and attractive miniatures, even though they are not as good-natured as the English Dances, say.

The performances are quite magnificent, however (although I have not heard the Boult performances that are often counted as the benchmark). The Philharmonia Orchestra play with all the color, atmosphere and subtlety the music calls for, from the joyful exuberance of the earlier sets to the more varied and less unambiguous later pieces. Bryden Thomson clearly loves and cares for the music, and his sense of rhythm, color and momentum is impressive. The sound quality is warm and rich and vivid - the recording is, perhaps, a little close, but the overall impact is marvelous. The disc is filled out with two inconsequential numbers from Arnold's ballet Solitaire, neither of which I would care to hear again. The main offerings, however, are so charming and well performed that the disc as a whole is something of an essential listening.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars DELIGHTFUL DANCES 25 Mar. 2013
By Mark Hancock - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This is truly a delightful, atmospheric album. It's like a trip to the old country. You can hear little bits of England, Scotland, Cornwall and Ireland in the various orchestral "dances." I'd liken this to the Anglo-Scottish-Irish version of Dvorak's Slavonic, or Grieg's Norwegian, Dances. The performances are stirring and the sound is great. This is a great way to experience Malcolm Arnold. Highly recommended.
5.0 out of 5 stars English Dances-Sublime Entertainment 11 July 2014
By William - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Absolutely beautiful music. It was restfully majestic.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 19 Nov. 2014
By T - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Great!
5.0 out of 5 stars Music that's exquisitely performed and just plain fun! 23 Mar. 2014
By Joseph Kline PhD, MD - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Malcom Arnold has not limited himself to serious music, but has enjoyed equal if not more success as a film composer with such greats as the score to Bridge on the River Kwai to his credit. And he is successful in that genre because of what makes his Dances such a hit: a super-human talent for creating great tunes and surrounding them with great orchestrations.

This music is just plain fun. It isn't for messaging a wounded ego and it isn't for mourning. It's for pure pleasure, and pure pleasure it gives. These suites are sometimes rollicking, occasionally tender, and never sorrowful. And there is always a catchy melody nearby.

These dances are sumptuously performed by the Philharmonia led by Bryden Thomson. The sound is wide-ranging, bright without sizzling, and of demonstration quality. The brass sound very natural and the bass and percussion are well-represented and well-defined. The listening perspective a little close but not objectionably so. I can find absolutely nothing to criticize on this disc. Even worse, there are so many great dances among the five sets, I can't reach a decision about which ones I like the most! I guess I'll just have to play the entire disc every time I listen. Cheers!
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