Classical CD Reviews

SIR MALCOLM ARNOLD – Ballet Music = Suite from “Homage to the Queen;” Ronaldo and Armida; Concert Suite from “Sweeney Todd;” Electra, Op. 79 – BBC Philharmonic/Rumon Gamba – Chandos

A most interesting collection of ballet music from one of the most interesting British composers.

Published on November 25, 2009

SIR MALCOLM ARNOLD – Ballet Music = Suite from “Homage to the Queen;” Ronaldo and Armida; Concert Suite from “Sweeney Todd;” Electra, Op. 79 – BBC Philharmonic/Rumon Gamba – Chandos

SIR MALCOLM ARNOLD – Ballet Music = Suite from “Homage to the Queen;” Ronaldo and Armida; Concert Suite from “Sweeney Todd;” Electra, Op. 79 – BBC Philharmonic/Rumon Gamba – Chandos CHAN 10550, 76:14 [Distr. by Naxos] *****:

A most interesting collection of ballet music from one of the most interesting British composers. The Homage to the Queen of 1953 was the composer’s first ballet music commission. It begins with a prelude in the style of William Walton’s coronation marches and ends with a dramatic finale as Elizabeth I symbolically hands the sceptre to Elizabeth II, with four tuneful dances in between. Rinald and Armida was a one-act dance-drama which Arnold received a commission for the next year. It is based on a poem by Tasso in which the enchantress Armida falls in love with the mortal warrior Rinaldo.

Arnold’s music for the Demon Barber of Fleet Street is similar to Sondheim’s later effort in contrasting the lurid expressionism of the Grand Guignol story with the humorous aspects of the legend. A prominent part of the cast is a group of incompetent policemen portrayed in the style of the Keystone Cops. The short one-act ballet Electra is based roughly on the tragedy of Sophocles, and departs from Arnold’s usual style in its general darkness, even making use of atonality in portions. The score was ignored after its premiere until just a few years ago.  Sonics and performance level are excellent thruout the CD.

 - John Sunier




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