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Penguin Guide, January 2009

Andrew Penny draw fine, concentrated playing from the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, with brass and percussion in particular brilliantly caught. As a bargain version this wins the highest recommendation…



KWN
Sensible Sound, August 2002

It was hard to decide [between the Naxos and Chandos versions]. I had a slight preference for the Naxos, in terms of both performance and sound, but once I made that decision, then factored in the budget price of the Naxos release, it was really easy to conclude that the Naxos release is my first recommendation.



TL
Sensible Sound, August 2002

The Naxos is a much better recording [than the Chandos]. The playing and conducting on the Naxos is also excellent. Paired with the recording quality, it turns it into a CD that is currently in print regardless of its content.



Robert Baird
Stereophile, February 2002

"Andrew Penny's probing leadership, abetted by the composer's presence in the studio, allows Arnold's poignant tunes to soar and catch their collective breath. The ideal orchestral balances are mirrored by Naxos superb engineering."



Harry H. Long
Classic Images, September 2001

"Beautiful and exciting."



Steve Metcalf
Hartford Courant, August 2001

"A solid performance of the composer's Sixth Symphony."



Edward Greenfield
Gramophone, June 2001

"In this, his 80th-birthday year, Sir Malcolm Arnold could scarcely wish for a more convincing coupling of his Fifth and Sixth Symphonies than this one by the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland under Andrew Penny. The budget disc is a worthy successor to two previous Naxos ones by the same forces containing the Symphonies Nos 1-4.

Arnold's skill as an orchestrator is to the fore here in playing that combines and contrasts ear-catching instrumental timbres with a kaleidoscope of colour and shading. But there is more than beguiling sonority in these performances, for Penny and the NSOI detect the undercurrents of disquiet in the music, the tugs and tensions beneath the lyrical surface that has always been a prominent feature of Arnold's writing.

There is passionate drama here, darkness and light, seriousness and jocularity jostling with one another in a way that creates intriguing, stimulating musical dichotomies and a powerfully productive turbulence."



Edward Greenfield
Gramophone, June 2001

"In this, his 80th-birthday year, Sir Malcolm Arnold could scarcely wish for a more convincing coupling of his Fifth and Sixth Symphonies than this one by the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland under Andrew Penny. The budget disc is a worthy successor to two previous Naxos ones by the same forces containing the Symphonies Nos 1-4.

Arnold's skill as an orchestrator is to the fore here in playing that combines and contrasts ear-catching instrumental timbres with a kaleidoscope of colour and shading. But there is more than beguiling sonority in these performances, for Penny and the NSOI detect the undercurrents of disquiet in the music, the tugs and tensions beneath the lyrical surface that has always been a prominent feature of Arnold's writing.

There is passionate drama here, darkness and light, seriousness and jocularity jostling with one another in a way that creates intriguing, stimulating musical dichotomies and a powerfully productive turbulence."



Roger Hecht
American Record Guide, December 2000

"Andrew Penny's Arnold symphony recordings ... [contain] an intimacy and a tension that is sometimes ethereal. His Irish orchestra is ... a fine group that brings a Sibelian color to this music. Until now, I have found his series a compelling and important supplement. Now it joins the elite. The Irish Symphony sounds better than ever, and so does the recording.

Penny's opening to the popular Fifth is slow, with soft attacks. His brass entrance is not huge, but it's effective in a more mysterious way. The low strings are strong without lunging, and the nimble woodwinds listen to each other so well that some passages are downright conversational. The first part of II is so simple, direct, and touching that the shock of the first climax strikes terror into our hearts. (Creating power out of contrast is typical of Penny's Arnold.) What follows is so eerie that the magical return of the quiet opening theme under the celeste is a relief. The ending is as touching as the opening, but sadder and wiser. III eschews jaunty strutting in the opening and continues with deliberation and reserve. The Hollywood-style trio fits better than usual because of Penny's less bouncy style, though it may counter Arnold's intended contrast of mood. The clear-toned trumpet fanfare opens IV on an optimistic note, but what follows is more sober until clouds darken in the low brass. We are prepared for the worst when the skies magically clear, and the theme from the Andante soars overhead, transformed from touching and sad to relieved and triumphant. Penny's Fifth is a gripping, Mahlerian journey, every bit the equal of Handley's bracing and stirring reading and Arnold's probing one."



Robert Cummings,
CDNow

"Andrew Penny delivers incisive readings, and the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland turns in its usual fine work. Naxos provides excellent sound to round out this, one of the finest orchestral recordings of rarely encountered repertory in recent times. Highly recommended."






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5:15:03 AM, 26 July 2014
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