Malcolm Arnold (1921-2006) was born Northampton, England to a family of prominent shoemakers. Early interest in jazz led him to take up the trumpet, which eventually led him to the position of Principal Trumpet with the London Symphony Orchestra. By the end of the 1940s his career had become almost entirely focused on composition. He went on to write 132 film scores, including the 1958 Oscar recipient Bridge on the River Kwai, nine symphonies, seven ballets, twenty concertos, a handful of theatre music, and wealth of brass band and wind band music. He was knighted in 1993 for his service to music, having been hailed as one of the major composers of the twentieth century.
The score for Prelude, Siciliano and Rondo (1963) provides the following program note:
Prelude, Siciliano and Rondo was originally written for the brass bands for which England is well-known. It was titled Little Suite for Brass. John Paynter’s arrangement expands it to include woodwinds and additional percussion, but faithfully retains the breezy effervescence of the original composition.
All three movements are written in short, clear five-part song froms: the ABACA design will be instantly apparent to the listener while giving the imaginative melodies of Malcolm Arnold a natural, almost folk-like setting. The Prelude begins bombastically in fanfare style, but reaches a middle climax, and winds down to a quiet return of the opening measures that fades to silence. The liltingly expressive Siciliano is both slower and more expressive, affording solo instruments and smaller choirs of sound to be heard. It, too, ends quietly. The rollicking five-part Rondo provides a romping finale in which the technical brilliance of the modern wind band is set forth in boastful brilliance.
I attach only one video here. It is the Columbia University Wind Ensemble performing this piece under my direction at Yale University in February, 2007. I dare say that, despite its few faults, it is one of the finer performances on YouTube. It certainly has good sound quality, and we certainly articulated the dotted-quarter-eighth patterns well in the first movement. No one else can claim both those distinctions! So listen and enjoy.