Commissioned to mark the 1953 Coronation and choreographed by Frederick Ashton, Homage to the Queen (Arnold’s first ballet score) enjoyed a glitzy Covent Garden premiere on the evening of the big day itself (June 2nd). Based around a scenario involving the Four Elements, it’s an enormously fetching creation, from which the composer subsequently extracted the present, crowd-pleasing 20-minute suite, and whose brazenly festive and memorably swaggering outer portions frame four numbers: a bustling ‘Dance of the Insects’ (with echoes of the Scherzo from Arnold’s Second Symphony completed the same year) leads to ‘Water’ (which incorporates an enchanting waltz for the pas de trios), succeeded in turn by an explosive ‘Fire Dance’ and quite ravishingly lovely ‘Pas de Deux’. …Rounding off a generous programme is Electra (1963): the idiom is frequently astringent in the manner of the Sixth and Seventh Symphonies but there’s no gainsaying the communicative force behind the notes nor the imaginative resource of Arnold’s scoring….
Andrew Achenbach, Gramophone, 01 December 2009
This valuable addition to the Arnold discography includes several works new to disc. Given the nature of his inspiration, it is odd that Arnold did not write more ballets, so we must be grateful for these four very different works. I have been especially struck by the concentrated, intensely dramatic, Electra music. …powerful and highly individual music.
Robert Matthew Walker, Musical Opinion, 01 November 2009
Sir Malcolm Arnold Ballet Music
Electra, Rinaldo and Armida, Suite from 'Homage to the Queen', Sweeney Todd
BBC Philharmonic/Rumon Gamba