The essence of this recording can be understood through two of the featured titles: Overture: Beckus the Dandipratt and Concerto for Two Pianos (Three Hands), and the fact that one of the selections concludes with a rambunctious, tambourine-fueled rumba. Featuring the two above-named works plus Malcolm Arnold's Fantasy on a Theme of John Field and Concerto for piano duet and strings, this program shows the English modernist composer at his high-spirited best. Though none of these works is formally, harmonically, or emotionally challenging, with their kaleidoscopic colors, kinetic rhythms, infectious melodies, and broad humor, they are all thoroughly entertaining and often incredibly funny. Pianists Phillip Dyson and Kevin Sargent are more than capable of handling whatever Arnold throws at them, and while the Irish Ulster Orchestra does sometimes slip in the hurley-burley, Finnish conductor Esa Heikkilä holds it together no matter what. Produced by Simon Taylor and engineered by Davy Neill in Belfast's Ulster Hall in 2007, the recorded sound here is bright, colorful, and vivid.
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AllMusic Review by James Leonard
|Concerto for 2 pianos, 3 hands & orchestra, Op. 104|
|Concerto for Piano Duet & Strings, Op. 32|