In these excellent tributes, Sir Malcolm Arnold celebrates his centenary with delightful arrangements and beautiful symphonies

Andrew Penny

Completion of Symphonies and Complete Dances                       Naxos (6 CDs), available now


Peter Fisher and Margaret Fingerhut

Malcolm Arnold: Centenary Celebration                         Somm, now available


He was 100 years old last month when Sir Malcolm Arnold, the Oscar winner for The Bridge On The River Kwai’s music, was born.

Arnold is arguably the island’s greatest composer of melodies. He was tremendously accomplished and wrote nine complete symphonies as well as two dozen concertos. Some of his orchestral music has been made into light-music masterpieces like the English Dances and the Padstow Lifeboat.

Two excellent albums have been released to celebrate this century. Naxos has reissued a fine set of Arnold’s symphonies, and all the British Dances, well recorded in late-1990s sound, and idiomatically conducted by Andrew Penny.

Arnold (above) was extremely accomplished, writing nine full symphonies, two dozen virtuosic concertos and a mass of orchestral music

Arnold, (above), was a highly accomplished composer, who wrote nine complete symphonies and two dozen virtuosic concertsos, as well as a large amount of orchestral music.

But the symphonies often are difficult-going as Arnold wrote about his many inner traumas. This is not the right place to learn about this exceptional composer.

You should also consider lighter music, such as the SOMM fine album with Peter Fisher (violinist) and Margaret Fingerhut (pianist), both Arnold specialists.

You will find some really tricky pieces but also delightful arrangements like the Scottish Dances or his music for film.

Arnold was responsible for three score compositions for Sir David Lean. His own favourite was Hobson’s Choice, a 1954 movie starring Charles Laughton. And Alan Poulton’s four-minute suite of musical highlights is a real joy.