This was supposed to be a birthday post (Arnell was born yesterday, September 15th, 1917) however I simply could not summon the energy to get to the computer last night. So, a 24-hour belated birthday tribute will have to suffice; I doubt Arnell would have minded, and I'm most certain that those of you reading this-whether you have discovered Richard Arnell's magnificent music on my blog or elsewhere-shall not quibble ;)
These wonderful ballet scores needless to say will undoubtedly only further the appreciation of Arnell's rich orchestral palette and ability to compose exciting sure-fire music. I have never heard an Richard Arnell work with anything in excess-ne'er a 'note too many' I'd say! If anything the listener is always left wanting for more.
The first time I heard "The Great Detective" I was immediately taken with it's exuberance, as well as it's Prokofiev-esque feeling. I would love to see the music staged, although clearly the music speaks colorfully and cogently on it's own. It's fantastic music, as is the substantial and highly symphonic "The Angels" ballet score, which Arnell wrote four years after The Great Detective.
I don't have time for a synopsis of either work at this time so here's a Gramophone review for now:
Dutton’s enterprising exploration of the works of Richard Arnell here moves from the symphonies and Piano Concerto to the ballet scores, which through recordings were for some 50 years the most readily available representation of the composer. Beecham championed Arnell’s music and recorded a suite from Punch and the Child, while the composer himself set down excerpts from both works here during the 1950s. These are, though, the first CD recordings and the first complete recordings of both.
The two scores differ significantly in style. The Great Detective – based loosely on Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes – is what one might expect of a ballet score of the 1950s, developing the action through lively orchestral transition passages that frame more lyrical set dances. A visual record would help; but even without it one can sense something of the action. The Angels is very much different, an altogether more powerful score, essentially structured as a three-movement symphony – the first movement a Theme and Variations, the second a beautiful Roundelay, the third a Vivace and final Transformation. It’s a sumptuous, uplifting score that transcends the ballet format and more meaningfully represents part of Arnell’s symphonic output. That those present in the recording control room during the sessions dubbed it Arnell’s “Symphony No 5-and-a-half” only begins to do it justice.
Martin Yates directs full-blooded, compelling performances that follow the composer’s own timings closely without ever suggesting slavish imitation. Arnell well deserves attention, alongside Alwyn and Arnold in Britain’s composing A-team.