Andrew Penny's recordings of Malcolm Arnold's symphonies will go down in history as one of the greatest relationships between conductor and composer ever. Few such relationships have produced such wonderful musical fruit--Boult and Vaughan Williams, Walter and Mahler, Rostropovich and Shostakovich perhaps--but I know of none that can clearly top the work of Penny and Arnold. This disc is clear evidence of the greatness of their mutual endeavor.
Recorded in the presence of the composer, both of these symphonies are allowed to speak for themselves on their own terms. If I had to give one word descriptions for these works, I would say the 5th symphony is beautiful and the 6th is (though still beautiful) dark. Penny allows both pieces the time required to unfold in all their glory.
I have been very impressed by several recordings that I have heard from the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland. As their wonderful playing on this disc proves, they continue to emerge as a world-class outfit. The Naxos sound on this disc is remarkable--it is clear, balanced, and has just the right depth for the more haunting moments in the 5th.
I recommend this recording of Arnold's 5th and 6th symphonies wholeheartedly.