Arnold has long been one of my favorite English composers – but for his lively and witty orchestral works, concertos, and film scores. I wasn’t aware of his chamber music for winds, many of which are just as delightful as his works for larger forces. There are 30 tracks here, and too many separate little works to list every one of them. Five of them receive their world premiere recordings with this CD.
There’s a special quality about the woodwind quintet, and in the hands of someone like Arnold it can really shine. Some of the pieces reminded me of woodwind quintets of Alec Wilder which are some of my favorites. Others tended toward the French model of composers such as Ibert, and some of the earlier works bore the style of Constant Lambert. The Suite Bourgeoise adds a piano to the quintet, and the Overture for Wind Octet adds four more wind players to the ensemble. Much of the music carries its witty qualities because it was written especially for friends of Arnold’s. It’s most interesting to hear how Arnold was able to retain such musical color – one of his prime attributes – even though he may be writing for such minimum forces as a pair of clarinets or a flute and clarinet. A small-scale collection with large-scale delectation.
– John Sunier