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Penguin Guide, January 2009

Andrew Penny and the Irish National Symphony Orchestra crown their fine cycle of the nine Arnold symphonies for Naxos with these two most troubled and challenging works, reflecting the darkest period of the composer’s life. The darkness is relieved by the wealth of thematic material, demonstrating the vitality of the composer’s imagination through his worst trials.



John Puccio
Sensible Sound, May 2002

"Contemporary English composer Sir Malcolm Arnold has written a multitude of film scores, and as a result he is often thought of as a light-music composer. But his nine symphonies and many overtures and marches show us a musician who can move from the serene to the rollicking and from the sublime to the ridiculous in grand form. Arnold is a kind of throwback to another era, a Romanticist in the Modern Age, a man whose magic can be serious but never self-righteous. That said, the two symphonies recorded here represent Arnold's more earnest and more darkly creative side...Andrew Penny and his Irish players perform both works in precise terms, leaning heavily to clarification rather than overt dramatics. Naxos provides a clear, true sound for the proceedings. In all, [the recording] is a pleasant and in some ways stimulating musical coupling, framed in clean, modern digital sound, and costing a pittance. Interesting stuff."



Robert McColley
Fanfare, February 2002

"For the Seventh and Eighth Symphonies Penny and the Irish orchestra are superb. They have played well in Arnold¡¦s other symphonies, but here they equal the best work of the major orchestras of England in their recordings of Arnold symphonies, dating back to the 1950s... Naxos offers proportionally more description and analysis of the music... The Naxos Seventh and Eighth are exceptionally fine."



Haldeman
American Record Guide, February 2002

"I like Penny's reading on Naxos better than Gamba's. Penny's Irish National is more reverent in the lengthy finale, and therefore more profound. The Naxos seems perfectly balanced. Penny's lighter disposition in the earlier movements better demonstrates the contrasting moods, and his orchestra's commitment to articulation is finally more exciting. In the 12-min oboe concerto, Jennifer Galloway is pure and expressive. It's a fleeting, spirited composition, and I enjoyed it."



Graham Dwyer
The Daily Yomiuri (Tokyo), September 2001

"Sir Malcolm Arnold (1921-) is now by default the grand old man of British music. His works are slick, brilliantly conceived and orchestrated, tonally based, and sometimes quite in a popular vein. He has been much in demand as a film composer, with about 80 scores behind him.

Once more, the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, this time under Andrew Penny, shows itself to be technically superb in bringing to life these difficult works. Their sheer dynamism is amazing, particularly in the mind-blowing crescendo that forms the climax of the second movement of No. 7.

These are not works to relax with in the living room and probably are best enjoyed live. However, Naxos should be applauded for unearthing yet more of a neglected repertoire."



Edward Greenfield
Gramophone, September 2001

"With this disc Andrew Penny and the Irish National Symphony Orchestra round off their fine cycle of the nine Arnold symphonies for Naxos. These are the most troubled and challenging of the symphonies in the series, reflecting the darkest period of the composer's life. Already there were indications of that darker side in Symphonies Nos 5 and 6, coupled on Penny's most recent disc (Naxos, 6/01), but here the pessimism runs even deeper, with the rays of hope and joy - so typical of the extrovert Arnold - coming to seem almost ironic.

"Not that these are depressing works, for as a creative genius Arnold translates his emotions into symphonic structures at once imaginative and original. It has regularly been pointed out how odd it seems that the Seventh Symphony, the darkest of all, is dedicated, a movement apiece, to the composer's three children. Plainly, these are not intended as portraits, but as very personal musical statements initially sparked off by elements in the characters and likings of each, as in the finale when a parodic reference to the music of the Irish group, the Chieftains, reflects the devotion of the composer's son, Robert, to their music.

"The darkness is relieved both by the characteristic colourfulness of Arnold's orchestration, with a battery of percussion prominent in No 7, and also by the wealth of thematic material, demonstrating the vitality of the composer's imagination through his worst trial. After the massive arguments of No 7 (the longest of the symphonies apart from the spare No 9), No 8, also in three movements, is more cryptic and compressed, though still weighty. For all its energetic thrust, the whirlwind finale, with its typically surreal quotations of an Irish marching song with piccolo, still leaves one on a question-mark. Whether or not one can love these two works as much as other Arnold symphonies, the sheer eventfulness of this music is what matters.

"This Naxos issue comes into direct rivalry with Handley's Conifer disc of the premiere recordings of both works. By a fraction Handley's are the more warmly expressive readings of both, with freer rubato, yet Penny and the Irish Orchestra gain from the extra clarity of the recording, full and open, bringing out inner detail in often-heavy textures, with dramatic contrasts sharply terraced. Handley may be marginally weightier, but Penny is just as compelling. At Naxos price these are works that plainly invite the attention not only of those who already enjoy Arnold's music, but of any collector who enjoys a challenge."



Stephen Johnson Wood
BBC Music Magazine, September 2001

"The Seventh Symphony is bleak, violent, sour and disillusioned- at times it sounds closer to Schnittke than anything in the English symphonic repertoire...As for the Eighth Symphony, it is haunted by reverberations of No. 7."






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9:59:44 AM, 28 August 2014
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