Sir Malcolm Arnold tribute, Norwich

FRANK CLIFF Sir Malcolm Arnold's presence at this recital in celebration of his 80th birthday showed him to be venerable yet still possessed of a mischievous twinkle.

FRANK CLIFF

Sir Malcolm Arnold's reputation as a composer rests largely on the humour and vitality that infect his work.

His presence at last night's recital at the King of Hearts, Norwich, in celebration of his 80th birthday showed him to be venerable yet still possessed of a mischievous twinkle.

Virtually a recital of his clarinet and piano music, it also contained a few “treats” of his favourite composers: the last two movements of Spohr's 1st Clarinet Concerto, and the slow movement of that of his great friend Gerald Finzi.

The clarinet soloist was Jonathan Howse, only 15, yet possessed of an excellent technique and a wonderful range of sound. In addition to being a fine accompanist, Benjamin Davey interpreted Arnold's piano works with great authority.

Most of the music belonged to the early part of his career, often receiving its first performance at a much later date.

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A late work, Three Fantasies for Piano, hinted at a more reflective melancholy side to his character, but mostly the music had the verve and dash of a young Arnold, epitomised in an excellent arrangement for clarinet and piano of music from one of his film scores.

And there's perhaps the rub; for there one feels is his true métier; the superb orchestrator and master of the infectious tune.