• Malcolm Arnold
  • Theme and Variations (Fantasy), Op. 140 a (1991)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)

arr. Giles Easterbrook

  • str
  • Recorder
  • 20 min

Programme Note

1. Andante e mesto
2. Allegro
3. Lento e mesto
4. Allegretto
5. Vivace

Throughout his long composing career, Malcolm Arnold has always been stimulated to compose by his many friends in the musical profession. This tradition dates right back to his playing days, when colleagues in the London Orchestras such as the clarinettist Frederick Thurston, the horn player Charles Gregory and the oboist Leon Goossens all inspired works for him. Later, he began writing concertos, for international artists such as Dennis Brain, Yehudi Menuhin and Julian Bream. Running parallel to this has been a long-standing interest in, and a desire to foster, the collaboration with the cellist Julian Lloyd Webber, and later with the prodigious Danish recorder virtuouso, Michala Petri. She was something of a child prodigy when she first came to prominence. Malcolm Arnold has watched over her transition to a mature artist – less painful than in the case of some musicians – and in the process has become a friend, writing three works for her, each a test of her developing musicianship. The first was the solo Fantasy Op. 127, of which she has made a fine recording. Then came the fully-fledged Concerto Op. 133, which she has taken on tour with much delight. This work is different again, and can perhaps be seen as combining elements of its predecessors: though formally it is stricter than the Fantasy, being cast as a theme and variations in five movements. The opening of the sequence of movements that follow are carefully varied in rhythm and tempo, and in their demands on the soloist: she is required to use three different members of the recorder family, sopranino, descant and treble and also to hum!

Malcolm Arnold’s original version is for recorder and string quartet and was the result of a commission from the Carnegie Hall Corporation in New York to celebrate the centenary of that famous auditorium.