RICHARD ARNELL – BALLET MUSIC: The Great Detective – The Angels – BBC Concert Orchestra/Martin Yates – Dutton

by | Jan 18, 2011 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

RICHARD ARNELL – BALLET MUSIC: The Great Detective – The Angels – BBC Concert Orchestra/Martin Yates – Dutton CDLX 7208, 66:17 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] *****:

When I first heard this music without consulting the program notes, it was a totally delightful experience. One captivating, different and beautiful track followed another. That says a lot about British composer Richard Arnell, who died last year at age 91. Evidently Leopold Stowkowski, and Sir Thomas Beecham also agreed: they championed his music. Arnell found himself stranded in America in 1939, unable to return to England because of World War II. He stayed until 1947, befriended by Bernard Hermann, who performed his music with the Columbia Broadcasting Corporation Orchestra.  The music on this disc was composed in the mid 1950s, and is a wonderful addition to ballet music that stands easily on its own without visual ballet accompaniment. Dutton has released several discs of his music, most importantly the ballet music Punch and the Child and Harlequin in April.

The ballet The Great Detective received its inspiration from the Sherlock Holmes stories, but there is no specific reference to any book. The First Programme described it “as a ballet after Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, introducing typical characters and featuring the struggle for supremacy between the Great Detective and his Arch Enemy, the Infamous Professor.” It’s a comedy spoof, with sections titled, “The Detective’s Mental Arithmetic,” the aristocratically elegant “Pas de Deux of Distracted Ladies and Suspect,” and the diabolically dramatic “The Fiend.” It’s all brilliantly orchestrated and delightfully melodic.

The Angels was commissioned by the Sadler Wells Ballet and choreographed by John Cranko. Arnell calls it “an abstract symphonically-structured work,” in three movements. In the first movement, a theme and variations, the Angel gives life. The second brings people together, with the sections given titles that describe the music, e.g. ‘mortified, strident, lyrical,’ etc. It’s the emotional center of the work, music that’s gorgeous and thrilling. In the rollicking finale, the Angel chooses a successor for immortality.

The recording, made in the Colosseim, Town Hall, Watford in 2008 is spectacular. Is this the same Watford Town Hall that produced the famous audiophile discs that RCA and others made in the sixties and seventies? This release brings to light music that is brilliantly orchestrated and a treat for the senses. Don’t miss it!

– Robert Moon   


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