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Malcolm Arnold - "English Dances, Set 1"

Sir Malcolm Arnold

English Dances, Set 1, Op. 27

Malcolm Arnold

Born: October 21, 1921, Northampton, England

Died: September 23, 2006, Norwich, England

Original Instrumentation: Symphony Orchestra

Composed: 1950

Arranged: 1965, Maurice Johnstone

Duration: 9 minutes

University of Maryland Wind Ensemble

"Carmina Burana"

Elsie & Marvin Dekelboum Concert Hall

Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center

The University of Maryland at College Park

Malcolm Arnold’s publisher, Bernard de Nevers, suggested that a suite of dances be composed to provide an English counterpart to Antonin Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances or Bartok’s Romanian Folk Dances. Arnold developed eight original melodies that seemed firmly rooted in traditional English dance and song. The melodies were divided into two sets of four. Written in 1950, English Dances was dedicated to de Nevers.

The first movement, Andantino, opens quietly to 4-part chords played by the French horns and a melody introduced by the oboe. The melody is reminiscent of the gentle movement of a country breeze or the slowly flowing streams, sometimes becoming agitated when encountering obstacles. Both the obvious and haunting bell tones heard in this movement and the others have been suggested as the source for the English nature of the dances. The church bells in the towns and cities of England are often tuned to the notes of the diatonic scale (i.e., the notes of the white keys of a piano). This scale is used extensively by Arnold, who believed in its “eternal value.” The second movement, Vivace, begins with bell tones that seem to signal the start of festivities in a village town. Mesto, the third movement, translates as sad or melancholy. The final movement, Allegro risoluto, is characterized by a driving and determined rhythm in the brass with ornamentation from the woodwinds.

Among his many other works, Arnold would later go on to write English Dances, Set 2, Op. 33, in 1951, Four Scottish Dances, Op. 59, in 1957, Four Cornish Dances, Op. 91, in 1966, Four Irish Dances, Op. 126, and Four Welsh Dances, Op. 138a, in 1988.

Additional Arnold Resources:

Malcolm Arnold, English Dances, Set 1, Op. 27, arr. Johnstone

Dallas Wind Symphony, Jerry Junkin, conductor

Malcolm Arnold, English Dances, Set 2, Op. 33, arr. Herbert

University of Nevada - Las Vegas, Tom Leslie, conductor

Malcolm Arnold, English Dances, Set 1, Op. 27

London Philharmonic Orchestra, Sir Adrian Boult, conductor

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