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ARNOLD: Overtures, Op. 8 Nos. 1-6


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Samuel Arnold (1740-1802)


Six Overtures, Op. 8 Incidental Music to Macbeth


Samuel Arnold was born in London, the son of ThomasArnold and probably Princess Amelia, Handel's pupil.

He studied under Bernard Gates, a student of John Blow,at the Chapel Royal and from the mid 1760s he was anactive composer for the summer gardens concerts.

Arnold began his theatrical activities in 1764 and withina decade established his reputation with works such asThe Maid of the Mill (1765), the first modern Englishopera with action-finales, and The Prodigal Son, anoratorio performed at the Oxford University encaenia in1773.

At the age of 29, Arnold, in partnership with theviolinist Thomas Pinto, took up the proprietorship ofMarylebone Gardens but despite good quality musicperformed there, the owners faced a constant struggleagainst financial adversity and strenuous efforts werenecessary to attract the public. Burlettas (Italian comicoperas in translation) were a particular speciality, beingstaged in a separate small theatre, and so were Torre'sfireworks displays. Fran?ºois Hippolyte Barthelemon,one of London's foremost virtuosi (admired by FannyBurney's Evelina) was leader of a small butaccomplished orchestra. Arnold retired fromMarylebone in financial ruin when he lost around?ú10,000 as a result of embezzlement.

Arnold resumed his professional association withthe patent theatres when, in 1777, he was engaged byGeorge Colman the elder as composer and musicdirector of the Little Theatre in the Haymarket. Hecomposed over sixty stage works over the next twentyyears, some with impressive overtures, such as those forThe Castle of Andalusia (1782) and Turk and No Turk(1785). From the mid 1780s Arnold was in a position tocombine his summer directorship of the Little Theatrewith several other posts in London, such as organist andcomposer to the Chapel Royal (from 1783) and organistto Westminster Abbey (from 1793). In 1789 he becameconductor of the Academy of Ancient Music and in1790 founded the Graduates Meeting, a society ofacademic musicians that included Haydn among itsassociates. From 1786 Arnold was dedicated to editing acomplete Handel edition, 180 parts of which werecompleted. He died in 1802 and was buried inWestminster Abbey.

The Six Overtures, published in orchestral parts byJohn Welcker in about 1771, were composed by Arnoldfor the Marylebone Gardens. His brand of symphonicwriting, a spirited homophonic idiom with fast tempos,pleasing tunefulness, striking tutti style and colourfulcontrasts, had resonances with gardens' audiences; thestyle is recognisably English even if the idioms areultimately derived from Mannheim or the symphonies ofJ. C. Bach. First movement expositions begin fierily,taking a picaresque trajectory as they move through aseries of sharply-etched motivic themes linked by activepassage-work as in, for example, Overture No. 4, thecentral section of which settles on the relative minor anda subtle re-working of the third idea before migratingobliquely to the first and a well-prepared return to Dmajor. The opening Allegro of Overture No. 2 is aparticularly fine example of Arnold's quirky structuralthinking: the central section starts with the syncopatedopening theme followed by modulatory passage-workwhich issues into a new idea to close, while otherexpectations are teased in the recapitulation when newmotives playfully replace old. Slow movements arescored for strings alone, except in the case of OvertureNo. 2 which exploits colourful instrumental timbres. Allare within the galant lingua franca and chiefly they arein duple Andante metre, sometimes sophisticated inphrasing and texture, but always limited in range andrhythmic variety, with Overture No. 4 (in triple metre)elegantly suave. Arnold interestingly favours thesubdominant key for central movements, a practice heshares with Mozart, among others. Catchy finale-tunesproduce a characteristic English jollity, as, for example,in the buoyant \hunting" theme of Overture No. 5 andthe John Bull type melodies of Overture No. 6, whileepisodes offer brief contrasts with perhaps a breathlesshint of minor mode.

The Incidental Music to Macbeth is one of a halfdozenShakespeare pieces by Arnold. The focus ofArnold's music for the play is Scottishness, with five ofthe eight pieces based on Scottish folk-song and twonewly composed in quasi-Scots style. All the music isintended to engender strong associative qualities withScottish feudal society.

George Colman the elder produced Macbeth at theLittle Theatre in the Haymarket on 7th September 1778.

The performance was advertised to include "the originalmusic composed by Matthew Locke" but Arnold is notcited. The "original" music referred to was in fact byRichard Leveridge, who composed it for a new DruryLane performance in 1702, but even Boyce's edition of1770 misattributes the score to Locke. Leveridge'smusic is exclusively for the witches and this is thereason for Arnold's elimination of any reference to thesupernatural. The Haymarket Macbeth was given alukewarm reception by the critics. The Morning Post of8th September 1778 told how Digges as Macbeth had"botched his lines and ranted at climaxes", Mars Masseyas Lady Macbeth drawled in a "provincial dialect" andAickin as Macduff overly wept at Ross's bad news. TheMorning Chronicle of the same day considered thecostumes too "gaudy" for the tragic action andsuggested that the witches paint face wrinkles to lookmore haggish; the "witches shewing Macbeth the figuresof the future King through a transparent scene" wasliked and also "the scene of witches, and all the musicalparts, were well given".

Arnold's Macbeth music serves to give a view of theaction, expressing what has happened and to show it inperspective. The opening military march presentsMacbeth as a soldier, wielding, when we first hear ofhim "his brandish'd steel / Which smok'd with bloodyexecution" (I.i.17-18). On the other hand, the banquetminuet in imitation-Scots style, signals the feast as asymbol of order, against which Macbeth appearsappalled and disorientated by the appearance ofBanquo's ghost (III.iv). Arnold is sensitive to themeaning of source texts in the Scots songs he employs.

The Birks of Invermay is a spring-song, invitingcomparison with the arrival of Duncan and Banquo atInverness. when they construe Macbeth's moralcharacter in terms of beneficent and procreative nature,commenting on "the halcyon air" and nesting birds. TheYellow-Hair'd Laddie (for the end of Act I) is a sweetand-sour portrait of women, which is here associatedwith the presence of Lady Macbeth. The Braes ofBallenden (for the end of Act II) is a nocturnal, nowmarking the murder of Duncan. Lochaber (for the end ofAct III), a song of exile, follows the news of Macduffand Duncan in England, working for restoration. Havingthe innocent Macduff family slaughtered is the low pointin Macbeth's decline, indicating a complete break withthe normal bonds of humanity. The bereaved Macduff,realising the full import of Ross's bitter news, isimagined in The Earl of Douglas's Lament (otherwiseknown as Lady Randolph's Complaint), a chivalroussong of piety and farewell. At the end of the playMacbeth is conquered by the English forces and Arnold,in an arrangement of Purcell's quasi-nationalistic'Briton's strike home' from Bonduca (1695), employsfull orchestra in the way he did for the soldierly marchat the beginning.

Polly (1728), sequel to The Beggar's Opera, withtunes harmonized by Johann Christoph Pepusch to alibretto by John Gay, was banned by Walpole'sgovernment but Gay's Tory friends ensured that theprinted text sold well; the overture, though mentioned inthe libretto, is missing, and was probably never written.

Almost fifty years later, on 19th June 1777, the operawas staged at the Little Theatre in
Facts
Item number 8557484
Barcode 747313248421
Release date 02/01/2006
Category 20th Century
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Performers
Composers Arnold, Samuel
Arnold, Samuel
Conductors Mallon, Kevin
Mallon, Kevin
Orchestras Camerata, Toronto
Camerata, Toronto
Disc: 1
Polly: Overture
1 I. Allegro
2 II. Andante
3 III. Tempo di minuetto
4 I. Allegro
5 II. Largo andante
6 III. Rondo: Vivace
7 I. Allegro
8 II. Andante
9 III. Vivace
10 I. Allegro
11 II. Un poco andante
12 III. Allegro
13 I. Allegro
14 II. Andantino
15 III. Allegro
16 I. Allegro
17 II. Andante
18 III. Allegro
19 March for Macbeth
20 Music Before the Play - Birks of Invermay
21 The Yellow-Haired Laddie
22 The Braes of Ballenden
23 Menuetto to be Play’d at the Banquet
24 End of 3rd Act – Lochaber
25 End of Act 4 – The Earl of Douglas’s Lament
26 The Favorite March in [Purcell’s] Bonduca
27 Polly: Overture
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