The Symphony No. 1 was completed in 1949 and first performed at the Cheltenham Festival in 1951 by the Hallé Orchestra under the composer. The powerful first movement demonstrates Arnold's ability to build large and boldly; sticking firmly to main issues, he makes cogent use of a handful of key motives. The second is a gentle, pare-noted intermezzo, its contemplative mood occasionally disrupted by ferocious brass. The last movement begins as an orthodox fugue; but before long Arnold is punctuating the main subject with explosive staccato chords, as in the final fugue of Verdi's Falstaff. Later on, the subject is briefly transformed into a grotesque military march. It recovers its dignity in a grand and imposing peroration - but the memory of that lapse from symphonic propriety lingers on.
© 1991 Hugo Cole