Skip navigation

Category Archives: Arnold-Malcolm

Malcolm Arnold (1921-2006) was born Northampton, England to a family of prominent shoemakers.  Early interest in jazz led him to take up the trumpet, which eventually led him to the position of Principal Trumpet with the London Symphony Orchestra.  By the end of the 1940s his career had become almost entirely focused on composition.  He went on to write 132 film scores, including the 1958 Oscar recipient Bridge on the River Kwai, nine symphonies, seven ballets, twenty concertos, a handful of theatre music, and wealth of brass band and wind band music.  He was knighted in 1993 for his service to music, having been hailed as one of the major composers of the twentieth century.  He offers his own program note to Four Scottish Dances (courtesy of the Oklahoma City University program note resource for band directors):

These dances were composed early in 1957, and are dedicated to the BBC Light Music Festival.  They are all based on original melodies but one, the melody of which was composed by Robert Burns.

The first dance is in the style of a slow strathspey– a slow Scottish dance in 4/4 meter — with many dotted notes, frequently in the inverted arrangement of the ‘Scotch snap’.  The name was derived from the strath valley of Spey.

The second, a lively reel, begins in the key of E-flat and rises a semi-tone each time it is played until the bassoon plays it, at a greatly-reduced speed, in the key of G.  The final statement of the dance is at the original speed in the home key of E-flat.

The third dance is in the style of a Hebridean Song, and attempts to give an impression of the sea and mountain scenery on a calm summer’s day in the Hebrides.

The last dance is a lively fling, which makes a great deal of use of the open-string pitches of the violin (saxophones in the band edition).

Malcolm Arnold has a website and a wikipedia bio.

Here is a more extensive program note about Four Scottish Dances.

Every performance of this suite that I’ve heard uses a completely different set of tempos, particularly the first movement.  Personally, I prefer it slower for its power (as in the first clip below), although it is extremely impressive to hear an accomplished group take a quicker tempo (as in the second clip).

Glenbard East High School plays the first two movements:

An unnamed band and conductor rocket through movements 1, 3, and 4:

Finally, 2 examples of real Scottish dancing.  Be prepared for some bagpipes!First, a social dance, this one a reel like in the second movement of the Arnold:

Now a competitive Sword Dance from a competition in Saratoga, NY.  Listen for the piper to play the “Scotch Snap” rhythm found so often in the Arnold:

Advertisements

Malcolm Arnold (1921-2006) was born Northampton, England to a family of prominent shoemakers.  Early interest in jazz led him to take up the trumpet, which eventually led him to the position of Principal Trumpet with the London Symphony Orchestra.  By the end of the 1940s his career had become almost entirely focused on composition.  He went on to write 132 film scores, including the 1958 Oscar recipient Bridge on the River Kwai, nine symphonies, seven ballets, twenty concertos, a handful of theatre music, and wealth of brass band and wind band music.  He was knighted in 1993 for his service to music, having been hailed as one of the major composers of the twentieth century.

The score for Prelude, Siciliano and Rondo (1963) provides the following program note:

Prelude, Siciliano and Rondo was originally written for the brass bands for which England is well-known.  It was titled Little Suite for Brass.  John Paynter’s arrangement expands it to include woodwinds and additional percussion, but faithfully retains the breezy effervescence of the original composition.

All three movements are written in short, clear five-part song froms: the ABACA design will be instantly apparent to the listener while giving the imaginative melodies of Malcolm Arnold a natural, almost folk-like setting.  The Prelude begins bombastically in fanfare style, but reaches a middle climax, and winds down to a quiet return of the opening measures that fades to silence.  The liltingly expressive Siciliano is both slower and more expressive, affording solo instruments and smaller choirs of sound to be heard.  It, too, ends quietly.  The rollicking five-part Rondo provides a romping finale in which the technical brilliance of the modern wind band is set forth in boastful brilliance.

Malcolm Arnold has a website and a wikipedia bio.

I attach only one video here.  It is the Columbia University Wind Ensemble performing this piece under my direction at Yale University in February, 2007.  I dare say that, despite its few faults, it is one of the finer performances on YouTube.  It certainly has good sound quality, and we certainly articulated the dotted-quarter-eighth patterns well in the first movement.  No one else can claim both those distinctions!  So listen and enjoy.