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Steve Schwartz
Classical Net, February 2013

A wonderful disc. Raphael Wallfisch gives an intelligent and passionate account of the cello concerto. Carl Raven reveals the dark moods of the sax concerto. Esther Ingham on flute and John Turner on recorder do well in their works…The sound is both full and clear, with the counterpoint especially so. © 2013 Classical Net Read complete review

Steven Kruger
Fanfare, March 2012

these performances are good and sound good…And the Cello Concerto seems a fairly healthy piece… © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review on Fanfare

Roger Hecht
American Record Guide, January 2012

the concerto is a wonderful piece…the result works amazingly well.

Excellent sound and good notes… © 2012 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide online, November 2011

brilliantly played, and audio is superb. Here’s another winner from Naxos—don’t miss it! Read complete review

Charlotte Gardner
Classic FM, November 2011

The Northern Chamber Orchestra and the Manchester Sinfonia respectively deliver crisp, intelligent readings, supporting two stellar soloist performances. In the Cello Concerto, Wallfisch encapsulates Arnold’s peculiarly British musical sensibility brilliantly, giving us pithy severity one moment and personal, lyrical expressiveness the next. John Turner’s recorder performance is a virtuoso tour de force.

Malcolm Hayes
BBC Music Magazine, November 2011

All the performances are excellent, palpably savouring the composer’s diamond-sharp craftsmanship; Raphael Wallfisch’s mellow-tones virtuosity excels even in this company.

Andrew Achenbach
Gramophone, November 2011

Two meaty offerings from opposite ends of Sir Malcom Arnold’s career top and tail this stimulating Naxos anthology. …it emerges as an attractively clean-cut, formidably concentrated offering…

The performances span a period of some five years (and emanate from no fewer than four different venues) but are never less than expert and thoroughly dedicated. No true Arnold enthusiast will want to miss this valuable release.

To read the complete review, please visit Gramophone online.

James Manheim, October 2011

…flutist Esther Ingham handles the technical challenges cleanly, and in fact all the musicians seem attuned to Arnold’s lively mood. Some of the music is probably second-drawer Arnold, but those who enjoy this unpredictable composer will find some overlooked gems here.

Rob Barnett
MusicWeb International, September 2011

Malcolm Arnold was a magus of the orchestra. That can be observed in his symphonies, concertos and overtures/dances. He was very productive with twelve works sporting the word ‘symphony’…or its variants and some nineteen concertos… After alarms and excursions all of the symphonies are on disc; the concertos have been less favoured. The most grievous lacuna here has been the Cello Concerto and this disc plugs the gap with both generosity and style.

Arnold’s concertos span his productive life from the 1940s to the 1980s and so do his symphonies. The Cello Concerto was his last and was premiered—as was the solo cello Fantasy—by Julian Lloyd-Webber. Never broadcast and rapidly disappearing after the RFH premiere one wonders why it never made it into concert and radio lists. Perhaps the performing rights were exclusively held and not further licensed; who knows. Not sure why Novellos did not promote it at a time when Arnold’s star was rising. That’s not the only mystery. When premiered it sported the title The Shakespearean but now that has been magicked away. Did the title have any linkage with the music? The otherwise useful liner-notes here tell us nothing about that. While not as lustrous and catchy as the Oboe Concerto it’s certainly a quicker win than the grim torturous passions of the Seventh and Ninth symphonies. The emotional core is the soulful middle movement. The outer movements are rhythmically lively. The finale admits paragraphs of touching depth at times recalling the Finzi Cello Concerto itself a work that looked in its outer movements to tragedy but leavened and intensified by joy. This is a more compact work but radiates a grand schema. You might compare this with another work which was very much the property of Julian Lloyd-Webber: the Rodrigo Concierto como un Divertimento  (1981) as against the instant popularity of the same composer’s Aranjuez Concerto. Like its companions here the recording is vivid and, as expected, the faultlessly executed and inspired playing of Raphael Wallfisch is totally engrossing. Has anyone recorded as much and always with such acumen and communicative success.

The Flute Concertino is—like all four concertante works here—crafted and made concert-playable by Liverpool-born composer David Ellis on this occasion orchestrated from the 1948 Flute Sonatina. Flautist Esther Ingham catches the winks and beguilement very well indeed and picks up on the resonances with Francis Poulenc; the last movement has Arnold sauntering along very much the boulevardier and flâneur languidly intent on seduction. This is classic Arnold cantabile and can cosy up rather comfortably with his two Flute Concertos recorded for EMI Classics by Richard Adeney and John Solum (sadly never reissued). Ellis kits the work out with idiomatically Arnoldian wings.

John Turner is very much a benevolent immanence when it comes to evangelising work for the recorder among British composers. We are in his capable presence for the five movement Fantasy for recorder and string quartet. He is more than put through his paces as the cheeky humming bird of an Allegro emphasises. The faster music has all the gamin helter-skelter of an Auric film score. Serenades and sprints abound. I do not know who the quartet are.

The Piano Sonata dates from wartime. It forms the springboard for the Saxophone Concerto. This is a most valuable addition as is the Flute Concertino. Carl Raven’s sax plays the field from music that touches base with Glazunov’s concerto… It ranges from hauntingly metropolitan nostalgia to the acidic Weill-like sardonics of the finale.

You expect and get real perception from Paul Harris’s liner-note. He draws attention to the Bartókian asperity of the Symphony for Strings which he quite rightly says links with the similarly stern Concerto for Two Violins. It was written for the Kathleen Riddick String Orchestra which in 1946 had his first wife Sheila Nicholson as a leading member. Do not expect Arnold the melodic weaver here although there are tunes in the thorny melos. Fascinating material which places Arnold close to Rawsthorne and Shostakovich. This is the psychological vein from which sprang the asperities and snarling gloom of the Seventh and Ninth symphonies.

The disc is a hands-down winner in the Naxos catalogue and slips nicely into the same rank occupied by Penny’s box of the symphonies. It is in complementary company alongside the equally well targeted Naxos CD of the piano and orchestra works.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, September 2011

It was the long friendship between Malcolm Arnold and the composer, David Ellis, that has made this disc of hybrid works possible. Arnold took delight in composing concertos for musical friends, among them the cellist, Julian Lloyd Webber. Sadly by the time of its composition, in 1988, Arnold was suffering ill-health and the work’s premiere was not successful, the orchestral part thin and sketchy. Some years later he asked Ellis to rectify that aspect. Together with amendments made by Raphael Wallfisch it is now receiving its premiere recording. Without even knowing the extent of Ellis’s work on the score, it is much in the Arnold mould, the active first movement leading to a sad central Lento whose ending is gruff and indignant. It almost goes without saying that Arnold found cheeky tunes for the finale. Not a work to display the soloist’s prowess, it requires the beauty of tone Wallfisch has long lavished on British music. Ellis also orchestrated the Flute Sonatina written by Arnold for the highly distinguished, Richard Adney. The result is a Concertino the flute dancing around the string orchestra in the opening movement; the central Andante a typically creamy Arnold creation, followed by a slinky finale. Ellis’s performing edition of the Fantasy for Recorder and String Quartet offers the sheer virtuosity of John Turner, before we move to an Ellis creation, Arnold asking him the improbable task of ‘composing’ a Saxophone Concerto from Arnold’s youthful piano sonata. A vibrant score with the vivacity we find in pure Arnold. The disc ends with a pungent account of the Symphony for Strings written by the twenty-five year old composer. Ellis, remembered as the producer of hundreds of BBC classical music recordings, is the unifying producer of a disc built up over several years, the Northern Chamber Orchestra outstanding in the Symphony.

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