Arnold: Overtures (CD review)
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.
William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer
Among my early childhood memories are those of listening to my mother playing records (some even 78 rpm ones!) of both classical music and jazz tunes. I suppose that her love of music was transmitted genetically, and my interest was sustained by years of playing in rock bands – until I realized that this was no way to make a living. The interest in classical music was rekindled in grad school when the university FM station serving as background music for studying happened to play the Brahms First Symphony. As the work came to an end, it struck me forcibly that this was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard, and from that point on, I never looked back. This revelation was to the detriment of my studies, as I subsequently spent way too much time simply listening, but music has remained a significant part of my life. These days, although I still can tell a trumpet from a bassoon and a quarter note from a treble clef, I have to admit that I remain a nonexpert. But I do love music in general and classical music in particular, and I enjoy sharing both information and opinions about it.
The audiophile bug bit about the same time that I returned to that classical music. I’ve gone through plenty of equipment, brands from Audio Research to Yamaha, and the best of it has opened new audio insights. Along the way, I reviewed components, and occasionally recordings, for The $ensible Sound magazine. Recently I’ve rebuilt--I prefer to say reinvigorated--my audio system, with a Sangean FM HD tuner and (for the moment) an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a transport, both feeding a NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, which in turn connects to a Legacy Powerbloc2 amplifier driving my trusty Waveform Mach Solo speakers, supplemented by a Hsu Research ULS 15 Mk II subwoofer.