Arnold’s first Sinfonietta was composed in 1954 on commission from the Boyd Neel Orchestra, so named after the conductor who founded the ensemble in London in 1933. The orchestra was the focal point of the English revival of Baroque string music in the 1930s. From the beginning, the orchestra commissioned new works and, by the early 1950s, the ensembles had expanded its repertory and commissions to Neel was appointed Dean of the Royal Conservatory of Music at Toronto University, Canada, a post Neel held until his retirement in 1970.
With this Sinfonietta Arnold has provided a three-movement work much in the spirit of an 18th Century divertimento. Its modest scoring of strings with pairs of oboes and horns, and the entirely approachable melodies of the piece, certainly suggest that era. The finale is exceptionally extroverted with an abundance of thematic material with which the horns have great fun as the work moves to a jubilant conclusion, perhaps giving us a glimpse of the “effortless bravura” of Arnold’s technique when he was one of England’s foremost trumpeters.
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