The 11th Malcolm Arnold Festival in Northampton this October

28/08/2016

Looking Forward to the 11th Malcolm Arnold Festival (Northampton 15-16 October 2016)

MalcolmArnoldEven if this year’s Proms remain a disappointment in some quarters (mine, for example) deserving yet largely unheard British music is doing fairly well. There’s a jangle of seasons and festivals crying out for attention: the William Alwyn around Aldeburgh (5-9 October 2016 – including the Third Symphony), the BBC Phil season at Salford Quays (7-16 September 2016 including the premiere of Arnold Cooke’s Sixth Symphony) and the professional premiere of Joubert’s opera Jane Eyre (Birmingham, 25 October 2016).

My first Malcolm Arnold Festival was last year (review review review) and I am pleased to be returning to cover this year’s two day event. As ever the 2016 event is packed with Arnold’s music and is fashioned around the theme of Arnold – Voice of the People. The programme, squeezed tight into two days, mostly at the Royal & Derngate, is remarkable.

The inaugural concert – presided over by composer Nigel Hess – on Saturday morning gives us what little remains of Arnold’s incomplete opera Henri Christophe as well as his jaunty short one-acter The Song of Simeon. There’s a special appearance by actor Nicholas Chagrin who was the first Simeon – and who is also the son of the composer Francis Chagrin. Brass music next from John Wallace and ensemble who also launch their new CD of Arnold’s brass music. Alice Pinto then gives a talk on Arnold’s early works: piano music and songs. The afternoon Family Concert at St Matthews Church is given by the Northampton Symphony Orchestra conducted by John Gibbons. The programme includes A Grand Grand Overture, Carnival of Animals and English Dances Set 2. There’s also the early and rare Machines which is perhaps an echo from Bliss’s Things to Come which Arnold included in one of his film music broadcasts with the London Symphony Orechestra in the 1960s. Tim Bowers’s Carnival of Carnivores is given its premiere. Back at the Royal & Derngate the Jenny Dyson Wind Quintet presents Arnold’s wind quintets for the evening concert.

Day 2 starts at 10:30 with an orchestral concert by the Northamptonshire County Youth Orchestra which is followed by an illustrated talk by Kriss Rusman: The Voice of the People. After, for the second time, delving deep into Arnold’s forgotten feature films last year, John Griff then presents a sampling of Arnold’s scores for the Forgotten Documentaries – presumably with footage from those films. Mid-afternoon Claire Thompson, pianist Jenny Redmond and flautist Alastair Garrett give us a selection from Arnold’s overlooked songs for film. An early evening concert given by The Janus Ensemble and Ben Palmer presents the delightful Arnold Piano Duet Concerto, the Clarinet Concertino and the Toy Symphony. The weekend concludes with the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by John Gibbons in music by Arnold. The Arnold items include Beckus the Dandipratt and the two concertante guitar works: the Guitar Concerto and the Serenade. The guitarist is Craig Ogden who with great style recorded both works for Chandos on CHAN 9963.

By the way, the Alwyn festival doffs its hat in the direction of Arnold – a fellow Northampton man – with Arnold’s Serenade in the final Prometheus Orchestra concert on 9 October 2016.

Next year (2017) another festival revels, like the Arnold, in its eleventh year: English Music Festival at Dorchester-on-Thames (programme to be announced in January 2017).

Click here for more about the 11th Malcolm Arnold Festival.

Rob Barnett

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