Recorded in the presence of the composer, Andrew Penny’s survey of the Complete Symphonies and Dances by Sir Malcolm Arnold has long been considered to contain benchmark recordings. Born in 1921, Sir Malcolm Arnold quickly established himself as a fluent and versatile composer, a gifted tunesmith and a brilliant orchestrator. His music is typically lucid in texture, rich in melody and clear in draughtsmanship yet there are frequent signs of a complex musical personality and dramatic tensions not far beneath the surface. The Dances are light-hearted, vivid and jaunty, yet the nine symphonies explore the composer’s darker side, painting a picture of his private ‘journey through hell’ as he struggled with physical and mental health issues. They are masterworks which exert continued appeal and stimulate repeated listening.
These are performances of uniformly high quality made in the presence of the composer and recorded with more realistic balances and cleaner textures than any of their rivals. While all of these readings are first class, highlights include a superb Symphony No. 5 and interpretations of Nos. 7 and 8 in which conductor Andrew Penny sets tempos that allow Arnold’s fanciful orchestrations to register with maximum color and impact.
– ClassicsToday.com (10/10; David Hurwitz)