Arnold’s second Sinfonietta followed the first by just four years and also was the result of a commission, this time from the Jacques Orchestra. This London ensemble, founded by the highly respected choral scholar and conductor Reginald Jacques in 1936, was formed to provide the instrumental accompaniment to Jacques’ critically acclaimed performances by the London Bach Choir. Soon after its formation, however, the Jacques Orchestra also began to present concerts apart from the choir and, from 1947, regularly presented orchestral programmes at the Edinburgh Festival. In 1960, ill health forced Jacques to forgo conducting and the orchestra folded. Arnold’s second Sinfonietta is testimony to the skill and fluency possessed by both Arnold and the Jacques Orchestra at the time of the work’s composition in 1958. It is scored for strings and pairs of flutes and horns. Never one to be too far advanced of his audience, Arnold’s second Sinfonietta is generally more lyrical and serene than the first over the course of the first two movements. In the third and final stanza, the ensemble, led by the flutes, bursts forth in a frenetic, but entirely tonal, dance-like melody that, as with the first Sinfonietta, brings the piece to a brilliant close.
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