LISTSERV mailing list manager LISTSERV 16.0

Help for CLASSICAL Archives


CLASSICAL Archives

CLASSICAL Archives


CLASSICAL@COMMUNITY.LSOFT.COM


View:

Message:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Topic:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Author:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

Font:

Proportional Font

LISTSERV Archives

LISTSERV Archives

CLASSICAL Home

CLASSICAL Home

CLASSICAL  December 2007

CLASSICAL December 2007

Subject:

More by Richard Arnell

From:

Steve Schwartz <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Moderated Classical Music List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 17 Dec 2007 12:47:30 -0800

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (128 lines)

Richard Arnell

*  Piano Concerto, op. 44 (1946)
*  Symphony No. 2, op. 33 "Rufus" (1942, rev. 1944)

David Owen Norris (piano); Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Martin Yates.
Dutton DCLX 7184 Total time: 66:29

The British Richard Arnell came to New York in the late Thirties for the
World's Fair and found himself trapped for the duration of World War II.
In the meantime, he carried on a career as a composer, hobnobbing with
such lights as Virgil Thomson, Mark Rothko, and Bernard Herrmann.  When
the war ended, he returned to England and began to build his career all
over again.  At first, he was lucky, even though -- like Alwyn, Arnold,
Walton, even Vaughan Williams, and just about every tonal British composer
of the time not Britten -- musical fashion had moved away from his brand
of neo-Romanticism.  Great conductors took him up -- first Barbirolli
in New York, and, more lasting, Beecham.  When Beecham died, Arnell
lacked a great champion, and his music sank into obscurity, although he
continued to compose (Arnell, as far as I know, is still alive, by the
way, and apparently still composes).  I wonder what else is out there,
waiting for recording.  He's the kind of composer people who like
neo-Romantic Modern music will probably enjoy.

I first encountered his music on a Lyrita LP of "lollipops" -- the suite
from The Great Detective, a ballet about Sherlock Holmes -- so I was not
at all prepared for his larger works, like the Symphony No.  3 (Dutton
CDLX7161).  I found a composer with an amazingly fecund musical imagination.
Indeed, at times he seemed to have too many really good ideas for a piece
to hold together.  If a well-argued score flies like an arrow directly
to a target, Arnell's larger works (that is, the ones I've heard) tend
to scatter like shrapnel.  Nevertheless, you still get a lot of bang for
your buck.

Having heard now four large pieces -- the Symphony No.  3, the "New Age"
Overture, and the two here -- I find that the scale, as opposed to the
length, at which Arnell so easily works, amazes me.  Something about his
orchestral sound suggests great vistas, like the music of Sibelius.

In 1942, Arnell entered a competition for new symphonies and used the
nom de guerre "Rufus." He didn't win and, despite a promise of performance
from Beecham, a musician's strike put paid to his entry's immediate
premiere.  It remained in the composer's drawer until 1988, when Edward
Downes and the BBC finally played it.  It's the earliest Arnell work
I know.  Despite its number, the composer wrote it before his official
first symphony, sort of like Chopin and his piano concertos.  We see in
the symphony the influence of Hindemith, Walton, and Sibelius, the latter
especially potent on British composers of the time.  The Hindemith,
however, surprises me, since the composer had few disciples in England
-- mainly Arnold Cooke and Franz Reizenstein, the latter a German expat.
Here, although the Hindemith riffs are pretty obvious, Arnell uses them
for little more than getting started.  He generates ideas of his own
with ease.  Hindemith shows up strongly in the first movement -- a
symphonic waltz -- in the shape of themes, the mainly quartal harmonies,
the development procedures, and the emphasis on vigorous rhythmic
counterpoint.  The waltz moves tautly, rather than sinuously, and Arnell
keeps the whole movement together in a close argument.  In the long
second movement -- a slow, reflective march, that frames some noble
singing -- the spirit of Hindemith weakens, and something more personal
and more poetic takes its place.  This was, of course, wartime, and I
might be forgiven for speculating that this movement laments the war
dead.  About three to four minutes from the end, the texture becomes
positively ethereal, as if one saw the souls themselves taken up.  The
finale, a rondo, uses a theme of strong Hindemithian cast in a movement
more like Walton.  In many ways, I find this the most interesting, if
the loosest, movement of the three.  Its symphonic thought takes big
strides, and its counterpoint, quirky and powerful at the same time,
invigorates it.

The 1946 Piano Concerto, the first of two, had slightly better luck.
Bernard Herrmann conducted the CBS Symphony in the 1947 premiere and
probably lobbied CBS to commission the work.  The concerto throws off
the impression of a big, heroic piece, but a close examination of means
reveals this as an illusion.  The good thing is that one finds Hindemith
nowhere in sight.  Arnell has become his own man.

Most of the solo piano writing tends to the simple: octaves, with double
octaves for excitement, or chords against melody.  Yet the musical ideas
themselves are big, and Arnell's orchestra reacts to the solo work like
a magician's assistant, providing a large frame for a spring-loaded
"bouquet." Parturient montes, and all that.  Arnell pulls one fabulous
melody out of his hat after another, but he writes essentially a lyric,
rather than an epic.  The concerto follows the standard three-movement
arrangement: call to arms, contemplative song, fizzy finale.  For all
the double octaves, it doesn't "feel" like a piano concerto.  For one
thing, there's very little dialogue between soloist and orchestra, and
the balance of forces is way off, with the weight going to the orchestra.
It sounds as if the orchestra plays at least half again as much as the
piano.  For example, Arnell produces a glorious, Romantic second subject
but doesn't seem able to make much of it on the piano.  It takes the
orchestra to realize the theme's glory.  Also, the movement runs a bit
long, like the Third Symphony, in my opinion.  There are simply too many
great ideas, and I don't really see how a conductor can keep the movement
from sprawling.  The end is wonderful, but the musical material comes
out of the blue.  So we get not a summing up, but yet another spur off
the main line.  This strikes me as a rhetorical mistake.

The second movement, a chromatic song, begins with the solo piano. 
In texture and in its emotional territory of nostalgic regret, if not
in idiom, it reminds me a little of Rachmaninoff.  The first subject
seems more suited to the piano, and the soloist enters a real dialogue
with the orchestra.  The balance shifts more to the piano nearly throughout.
The cadenza is quite fine, both musically and as a vehicle for the
soloist.  Nevertheless, the movement's second theme, dolce poetico,
doesn't suit the piano at all -- too sustained.  Its successful restatement
in the strings doesn't really surprise you.

The third movement, yet another rondo, opens with much of the bounding
energy of the American symphonists of the Forties, particularly Piston.
But there's a Romantic overlay in the concerto not found in Piston.  For
my money, this is the concerto's strongest movement musically, pianistically,
and "concerto-wise." One of the rondo episodes, an extensive andante for
the soloist alone both shows the most idiomatic keyboard writing and
will tear your heart out, besides.  The movement finishes up pyrotechnically.

David Owen Norris does as well as he can in the concerto.  When Arnell
deals him a decent hand, he makes the most of it.  Yates and his Royal
Scots give a sympathetic, committed account.  Arnell's musical heart
seems to lie with the orchestra, so the orchestra had better be good.
Arnell rewards them by making them sound magnificent.

Steve Schwartz

             ***********************************************
The CLASSICAL mailing list is powered by L-Soft's renowned LISTSERV(R)
list management software together with L-Soft's HDMail High Deliverability
Mailer for reliable, lightning fast mail delivery.  For more information,
go to:  http://www.lsoft.com/LISTSERV-powered.html

Top of Message | Previous Page | Permalink

Advanced Options


Options

Log In

Log In

Get Password

Get Password


Search Archives

Search Archives


Subscribe or Unsubscribe

Subscribe or Unsubscribe


Archives

May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003
December 2002
November 2002
October 2002
September 2002
August 2002
July 2002
June 2002
May 2002
April 2002
March 2002
February 2002
January 2002
December 2001
November 2001
October 2001
September 2001
August 2001
July 2001
June 2001
May 2001
April 2001
March 2001
January 2001
December 2000
November 2000
October 2000
September 2000
August 2000
July 2000
June 2000
May 2000
April 2000
March 2000
February 2000
January 2000
December 1999
November 1999
October 1999
September 1999
August 1999
July 1999
June 1999
May 1999
April 1999
March 1999
February 1999
January 1999
July 1997

ATOM RSS1 RSS2



COMMUNITY.LSOFT.COM

Secured by F-Secure Anti-Virus CataList Email List Search Powered by the LISTSERV Email List Manager