ARNOLD Symphonies Nos 1 & 2 – Hickox
Richard Hickox shows himself thoroughly at home in both symphonies and the readings have a natural flow and urgency, with the two slow movements bringing haunting atmospheric feeling. The First Symphony opens with thrusting confidence on strings and horns and at its climax, where the strings soar against angry brass ostinatos, the playing generates great intensity; then at the start of the slow movement the purity of the flute solo brings a calm serenity which returns at the close. There are only three movements and the plangent lyrical melancholia of the expansive march theme of the finale is filled out by some superb horn playing which is enormously compelling. (The movement opens with a vigorous fugato in the place of a separate scherzo.)
The first movement of Symphony No. 2 brings a most winning clarinet solo (Arnold's fund of melodic ideas seems inexhaustible), there is an energetic, bustling scherzo to follow, but again it is the slow movement which one remembers for its elegiac opening, its arresting climax and lovely epilogue-like close, where (from 10'18'') the strings play with movingly rapt concentration. The rumbustious finale shows Arnold in the perky, popular vein of the national dances and the piece ends on an upbeat mood of exuberance.
Above all these are real performances without any of the inhibitions of 'studio' recording. Congratulations to all concerned.'