Some chamber music, especially of the early 20th century-onwards, asks (or challenges) the listener from the first bar to penetrate its aural membrane. Often static, or on the other hand in-your-face, it is with patience that the music's 'true colors' emerge-and frequently repeated listens are required. One experiences this 'ascension through the clouds' with all types of musics and genres needless to say; however chamber music in particular I think poses the most obstacles for the average or erudite listener. Of course like anything else it's also a question of the quality of the work-is it worth the effort, or is it the music that's simply uninspired?
Here the chamber music of Richard Arnell challenges the listener to *not* find it all irresistible from the start...that's been my experience anyhow! Indeed the pull is strong immediately, the craftsmanship and invention found in the opening work "Trio for Violin, Cello & Piano" makes it's case and wins one over, it's too good, too beautiful to resist..
The Trio for Violin, Cello and Piano, Op. 47, was written in 1946 and is Arnell's last work composed in the States before his return to England, financially hard-pressed due to being released from his job with the BBC Stateside. He dedicated the trio to his close friends Ilsa Falk and Herbert Farber, the latter a successful dentist who had been supportive. Arnell describes the Trio as "the most compelling of my chamber works" and it was first performed with Dennis East playing the violin and Arnold Ashby, the cello. The piece was subsequently taken up by the Rubbra Trio in England, and recorded for the BBC, the string parts being played Eric Gruenberg and Douglas Cameron.
Back in England Arnell moved in with his father. Arnell was shocked by the turmoil in post-war Britain, especially when he experienced rationing and saw the operation of the black market. Nevertheless, Arnell was regularly performed by Beecham and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as by Barbirolli with the Hallé. He enjoyed enthusiastic support from the New London String Quartet and both Gruenberg and Cameron continued to commission and perform his quartets (which, happily, are also recorded on Dutton). Yet, Arnell felt that trends at the BBC under William Glock were not favorable toward his compositional style. When his fifth string quartet was declined for broadcast at the Cheltenham Festival, Cameron organized a special performance at his own expense. However, one new chamber work, the String Quintet Op. 60 of 1950 was particularly well-received and attracted critical acclaim.
Arnell became a lecturer at the Royal Ballet School from 1958-59 and later he was to be Chairman of the Composer's Guild and Musical Director of the London International Film School. Meanwhile, he was composing an impressive list of symphonic and chamber works, as well as ballet scores and an opera. In 1960 came the "Suite for unaccompanied Cello", written for Douglas Cameron. It is neo-baroque in character and a lovely addition to the solo cello repertoire.
The draw of America however was ever-present, partly because he continued to visit his daughter in California, There he was employed by the film studios, producing scores for 20th Century Fox, on the recommendation of Leonard Bernstein's sister. At this time, Benjamin Britten was composing for film documentaries, and likewise, Arnell enjoyed this medium, considering his most notable scores to be for the films "The Visit" (1964) and "The Man Outside" (1966).
|"The Boat Race" poster by N G Cayford, used as the album cover. Pretty charming.|
In 1967, on a Fulbright Exchange, Arnell became visiting lecturer at Bowdoin College, Maine, and subsequently took a post as "Professor of Humanities" at Hofstra University in New York. During this time he composed the "Music for Harp" Op. 72a for Flute, Violin, Viola and Harp which is a brief, somewhat meditative work. I wish this was but one of several movements from a sonata! These were interesting times for Arnell, as he observed the protests against the Vietnam war, to which he added his own comment in the form of a piece for voice and electronics entitled "Prague 1968".
Returning to England once again, Arnell dedicate himself to both education and composition. For forty years he was senior lecturer in Theory Composition at Trinity College of Music until his retirement. Serving on committees of musical colleges and film schools, organizing festivals and promoting performances of works by contemporary composers, he worked tirelessly to support young musicians, whilst continuing to add his own very considerable output.
The "Trio for Flute, Cello, and Piano" (Three for Three) Op. 168 was written in 1991, and is a gentle and lyrical piece from the composer now in his 74th year. It has only two short movements, one quite poignant and the other searching. Arnell was still going strong, his magnificent output continuing to grow for many years.
Trio for Violin, Cello and Piano
4)Music for Harp - Andante con moto - Allegro moderato (5:56)
8)Fantasia (Andante-Allegro) (8:37)
Trio for Flute, Cello and Piano
10)Allegro moderato (4:58)
Suite for unaccompanied Cello
11)Variations (rhythmically in the manner of 16th century Lute Divisions) (3:07)
14)Scherzo fugato (1:14)
17)Presto Finale. (1:30)