Arnold: Overtures (CD review)

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.


1 comment:

  1. Hi John,

    Thanks for the review of the Samuel Arnold.

    It was definitely a bad day for me when I saw what Naxos had done-- naming 2 names for the orchestra on the CD.
    The group used to be called The Toronto Camerata and was changing to the Toronto Chamber Orchestra. I suppose this was Naxos' was of making the transition!

    Kevin Mallon

    Music Director Toronto Chamber Orchestra


John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first 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 use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa