Also, Incidental Music to Macbeth; Polly, overture. Kevin Mallon, Toronto Camerata. Naxos 8.557484.
No, this is not the music of popular twentieth-century British composer Malcolm Arnold. This is the music of popular eighteenth-century British composer Samuel Arnold (1740-1802). Only Malcolm Arnold is still popular today, and people hardly remember Samuel Arnold anymore.
The disc's main contents are the six Overtures, Op. 8, that Arnold wrote in 1771, pleasant, lightweight affairs that begin sounding alike about ten minutes in. However, things perk up with numbers four and five, so if you get hold of this album, you might want to start there. Or listen to one overture per day rather than listening through all six at once as I did.
More to the point is the Incidental Music to Macbeth, written in 1778. It contains an assortment of tunes based on actual Scottish folk songs and is quite delightful. There is the odd incongruity of a typical eighteenth-century minuet right in the middle of things, but one can easily overlook that. The album concludes with the overture to Polly, a sequel to John Gay's Beggar's Opera of some years earlier. To maintain a continuity, Arnold uses a medley of themes from the earlier work. It's pleasant, though hardly world-beating.
The Toronto Camerata is a small group made up of players from the Toronto Symphony, the Canadian Opera and Ballet Orchestras, and Tafelmusik. They play well, in a lively manner conducted by Kevin Mallon. But they might want to tell Naxos to get their name straight: On the outside of the booklet cover, the record company label them as the Toronto Chamber Orchestra. Well, maybe they want folks to call them by both names. What do I know. The sound appears moderately distanced, so we get a good deal of warm, realistic hall ambience at the expense of much inner detail.
About the Author
I've been listening to classical music most of my life, starting with the classical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first classical recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor. Today, I'm retired from teaching and using a pair of VMPS RM40s. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (moviemet.com, formerly DVDTOWN) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.
When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.
So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.
Readers with polite, courteous, helpful letters may send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Readers with impolite, discourteous, bitchy, whining, complaining, nasty, mean-spirited, unhelpful letters may send them to email@example.com.