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  September 2008

CLASSICAL September 2008

Subject:

Arnell's 4th and 5th

From:

Steve Schwartz <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Wed, 17 Sep 2008 18:53:45 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (121 lines)

Richard Arnell

*  Symphony No. 4
*  Symphony No. 5

MusicaNova Orchestra/Warren Cohen.
Con Brio CBR27452  Total time: 64:50

Summary for the Busy Executive: Hurray for the (which?) red, white, and
blue!

A pupil of John Ireland, Richard Arnell (b.  1917) made a splash in the
Thirties and Forties and then, with a bunch of other British composers,
drowned in the neglect washed in by the change in musical fashion following
World War II.  Nevertheless, he enjoyed better luck than most.  Beecham
took him up and performed him fairly regularly.  However, when Beecham
died, no one else stepped forward.  To this day, Arnell tends to be known
(if at all) for his scores of the Forties and Fifties, notably the ballets
The Great Detective and Punch and the Child.  However, Arnell has continued
to compose.  Indeed, as far as I know, he's still at it, even though he
has largely fallen off the radar.  However, small stirrings have begun.
Dutton Laboratories/Vocalion has embarked on what looks like a series
of his symphonies (although at a super-premium price) in fine performances
by Martin Yates and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

Arnell came to the United States in 1939 for the British pavilion at the
New York World's Fair.  The start of World War II left him stranded here
for the duration, but he didn't let the time go by.  He became friendly
with American representatives of then-advanced music: Virgil Thomson,
Bernard Herrmann, and Roy Harris among them.  Harris's work in particular
had some influence, although Arnell never imitated.

Arnell's Fourth Symphony, in three movements, comes from 1948.  That it
sounds more American than British interests me most.  Without actually
appropriating specific techniques, it moves like Roy Harris's Third
Symphony, which Arnell admits impressed him mightily.  It begins with
a long, slow introduction of various motives which Arnell then takes up
in the following allegro.  Like Harris, the development seems "organic"
rather than by the book -- that is, you never really know which motive
will turn out the most important until the movement's end.  Unlike Harris,
Arnell, despite some slight transformations, does not subject his ideas
to continuous variation.  Instead, one tends to hear the same shapes in
new contexts.  The end of the movement seems to come abruptly, although
the work runs a good fourteen minutes, but it makes you eager for the
slow second movement.  This features a gorgeously simple diatonic theme,
slightly reminiscent of Virgil Thomson in the Forties or Henry Cowell's
Ballad.  However, Arnell treats it in a manner all his own: highly
contrapuntal, Romantic to the point of lush, without stepping over.
Perhaps this is where John Ireland's influence comes in.  The movement
is a struggle between light and dark, and just as you think light has
won, Arnell throws in a sinister shake before he ends in perfect peace.
The finale bustles like Piston or Mennin, and despite its brevity (each
movement runs roughly half the length of its predecessor), sums up the
symphony.  The themes seem related to those of the first movement, while
some of the harmonic progressions recall the second.  I simply can't get
over the American atmosphere of this symphony, beyond the superficial
resemblances.  It's the spirit within -- a blunt earnestness of tone,
an ocean away from the subtle shifts of British composers of the time,
like Walton and Vaughan Williams, or the "objective" streamlining of
Forties Tippett.  Furthermore, compared to Arnell's earlier symphonies,
which tend to sprawl a bit, it makes its points and gets out.  A wonderful
score.

The Fifth, subtitled "The Gorilla" (according to Grove), appeared in
1957.  The subtitle may be the composer's rueful own.  In three hefty
movements, it proceeds mainly at a deliberate, purposeful pace, filled
with a big-hearted lyricism.  Again, one feels the influence of the
Harris Third in how the symphony unfolds.  Arnell doesn't write a classical
work, but one dictated by the pressure of his themes.  The symphony opens
with a profusion of ideas, all essentially ascending.  As the narrative
goes on, these ideas tend to merge into one another -- easily, too, since
they share the same shape.  It's almost all development and overall an
increase in intensity.  At about the point a recapitulation would occur
in a classical symphony, we get something similar with a reappearance
of the main ideas.  However, they now appear in a more charged atmosphere
and begin to let off some of that charge.  I find this the most dramatic
part of the symphony, and it carries you to a glorious end.

The second movement, unusually, combines slow movement with scherzo.
Arnell describes it as a slow movement interrupted by scherzo.  My
favorite of the symphony, it begins again with upward scale fragments
and wide upward leaps, followed by a falling step.  A scherzo begins,
which I hear as an update of Debussy's "Fetes," arpeggios tenuously
connected harmonically.  The orchestration is magical, especially the
string writing, which might have been influenced by Harris or William
Schuman.  The manic energy of it, however, doesn't last long.  A slow
passage consisting mainly of wind solos against tremolo strings brings
movement to a magical stasis.  As the passage proceeds, hints of the
previous scherzo flit across the aural landscape, but they remain mere
hints.  Fast music does return, however, except now the ideas of the
scherzo now appear in duple time.  This becomes a quick march and the
themes morph in response.  We come back to the introductory material and
to another slow section, again with wind and brass solos and duets against
strings.  The movement is less about themes and their variation than
about broad musical gestures.

The last movement consists of three main ideas: a slow drumbeat,
reminiscent of the slow movement of the Vaughan Williams Sixth; an
ascending bass line, which does a surprising amount of work throughout
the movement; a contrasting song-like idea.  The movement begins with
an inexorable tread, set by the drumbeat.  Much of it has the feel of a
passacaglia, although the bass line tends to wander freely.  The ideas
merge into one another, as when, for example, the lyrical music sounds
over the drumbeat.  The movement builds impressively until what I'd
consider the coda, which introduces quick "finale" music, fine in itself,
but which seems tacked on, rather than a consequence.  It's as if Arnell
ran out of nerve and wanted to bring the audience to its feet.  The coda
may very well do that, but when you consider the whole movement, it comes
across as bizarre.

Cohen and the Arizona orchestra MusicaNova do alright, rather than
wonderfully well, by Arnell.  I prefer Martin Yates of Dutton Laboratories,
but that disc costs one-and-a-half times this one.

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