• Malcolm Arnold
  • A Grand, Grand Overture (1956)

  • Paterson Publications (World)

Written for the 1956 Hoffnung Music Festival

For 3 Vacuum Cleaners, 1 Floor Polisher, 4 Rifles and Orchestra

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  • 3 vacuum cleaners, 1 floor polisher, 4 rifles
  • 8 min

Programme Note

Malcolm Arnold’s A Grand, Grand Overture was written for the first of the celebrated Hoffnung Concerts, held in the Royal Festival Hall, London, on 13 November 1956. Those who were involved in the performance, among them Sam Wanamaker and John Amis, have left unforgettable pictures of the rehearsals, with hard-bitten professionals helpless with laughter as they witnessed the birth of one of music’s most celebrated practical jokes. For the Overture is scored for full symphony orchestra and organ – and three vacuum cleaners, a floor polisher and four rifles, which at the climax of the piece viciously silence their heavy-breathing rivals. The work is also larded with many horrendous juxtapositions of key, and with an insanely prolonged coda – and as if all this were not enough, the main theme of the Overture is one of Arnold’s most inspired tunes ever.

© Piers Burton-Page

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A Grand Grand Overture

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