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English Dances, Book Two (Sudduth)

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Malcolm Arnold

Malcolm Arnold (trans. James Sudduth; ed. Ethan Owens)

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The work bears the designation Opus 33.

General Info

Year: 1951
Duration: c. 9:45
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Orchestra
Publisher: Unknown
Cost: Score and Parts - Unknown


5. Allegro non troppo
6. Con brio
7. Grazioso
8. Giubiloso


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None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Malcolm Arnold's second set of English Dances, first performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra in 1952 under the direction of Sir Adrian Boult, was commissioned immediately upon the success of his first set (Op. 27). His publisher was keen to build a repertoire of orchestral works similar to the popular Slavonic Dances of Antonin Dvorak.

Both suites have been arranged for other media, including brass band, concert band and piano. The choreographer Kenneth McMillan created a one-act ballet set to the music of all eight dances. Television audiences in the United Kingdom will readily recognize the first movement as the theme music for the long-running show What the Papers Say.

- Program Note from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, Wind Orchestra concert program, 5 June 2016

Arnold composed two sets of pieces entitled English Dances, of which this 1951 work — originally scored for orchestra — is the second, while he was still earning acclaim as a young composer. He later incorporated both sets, along with two additional dances (Sarabande and Polka from Solitaire), into his 1955 ballet Solitaire. He has created miniature mood pieces that have all the vitality of the dance, each one highlighting some aspect of the English folk idiom.

The short movements demonstrate the folk influence common to many English composers through the use of modes and repetition of themes like song verses, but all of the thematic material is original. Deliberately evocative melodies and instrumental timbres are set in a harmonic style which is often acerbic in an uncompromisingly twentieth-century way, giving the music a tension which lends depth to the simple melodies which form the basis of each movement.

The first movement (V) recalls the sound of the pipe and tabor. In this arrangement, the dance is played by a piccolo and a side drum. The second movement (VI) is in 6/8 meter, but its mood is livelier; like all of these dances, it never tires of repeating a good tune. The third movement (VII) is graceful, its wistfulness enhanced by the flat leading-note of its Mixolydian mode. The final dance (VIII) is clearly a celebration, its melody strengthened by prominent use of the tonic and dominant as pivotal points.

English Dances is dedicated to Bernard de Nevers and was first performed by the London Philharmonic under Sir Adrian Boult on April 14, 1951.

- Program Note from Hebron High School Wind Symphony concert program, 15 December 2016

Arnold developed eight original melodies that seemed firmly rooted in traditional English dance and song. The melodies were divided into two sets of four. Arnold’s mastery of instrumentation is evident on every page of English Dances, the first set of which was completed in 1950 and the second in 1951. The first movement of the second set, Allegro non troppo, was used from 1969 to 2008 as the theme music for the long-running UK television program What the Papers Say, and was used again for the revived version of the program on BBC Radio Four. The second of second movement of the second set, Con Brio, establishes a dance-like 6/8 meter represented by bassoon and clarinet at the beginning. The third movement of the second set, Grazioso, presents as graceful or elegant by slow melody. The final movement, Giubiloso - lento e maestoso, starts with a bright fanfare introducing a joyful theme, leading to an elegant yet energetic conclusion.

- Program Note from University of Texas concert band concert program, 19 February 2018


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State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • Syracuse (N.Y.) University Wind Ensemble (Paula Crider, conductor) - 19 October 2021
  • Texas State University (San Marcos) Wind Symphony (Caroline Beatty, conductor) – 4 October 2019
  • University of Iowa (Iowa City) Symphony Band (Mark Heidel, conductor) - 21 February 2019

Works for Winds by This Composer