“The three major concertante works here reflect in a moving way the strange contradictions in Arnold's character, the mixture of lyrical warmth, popular inspiration and, in complete contrast, the darkness of Arnold's deeply depressive side, which at times had him consigned to psychiatric hospitals.
The longest work is the Fantasy on a Theme ofJohn Field, the theme being one of the Nocturnes, a favourite work with Arnold's mother.
Field, like Arnold, was alcoholic and depressive, and that made him a sympathetic figure to Arnold when the composer was living in Dublin.
In effect, it is a set of variations which for the most part are dark but which end with a lyrical Rachmaninov-like passage.
The Concerto for Piano Duet and Strings dates from 1951, a time of frenetic activity which in a very short while produced a whole sequence of works including several film scores but which also resulted in distressing treatment for his depression. The work brings busy and brilliant passagework for the soloists in the first movement, a still and intense passacaglia slow movement and a relentlessly high-spirited finale.
The Concerto for Two Pianos was written for Cyril Smith and Phyllis Sellick after Smith lost the use of his left hand, and represents Arnold's lighter side, notably in the big tune of the central slow movement, first cousin to the great surging second subject theme in the Fifth Symphony.
The work ends with a delightful rumba full of cross-rhythms.
The overture Beckus the Dandipratt is an exuberant comedy overture, with particularly brilliant writing for the brass – Arnold at the time was first trumpet in the LPO.
Phillip Dyson and Kevin Sargent are brilliant and alert piano soloists, with the young Finnish conductor Esa Heikkilä drawing dazzling playing from the Ulster Orchestra, vividly recorded.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
“Philip Dyson and Kevin Sargent are brilliant and alert piano soloists, with the young Finnish conductor Esa Heikkilä drawing dazzling playing from the Ulster Orchestra, vividly recorded.” Gramophone Magazine, December 2007