Richard ARNELL (1917-2009)
Punch and the Child
- Ballet Music (1947) [21:21]
Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934)
An Arabesque
(1911) [13:14]
Einar Nørby (baritone)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Thomas Beecham
Lord BERNERS (1883-1950)
The Triumph of Neptune
- Suite (1926) [32:31]
Robert Grooters (baritone)
The Philadelphia Orchestra/Sir Thomas Beecham
rec. 31 May 1950 Kingsway Hall, London (Arnell); 12 October 1955 Walthamstow Assembly Hall, London (Delius); 3 February 1952 Academy of Music, Philadelphia (Berners). DDD
First issued as Columbia Masterworks ML4593 (Delius Arnell); Fontana CFL1009 (Berners)

Arnell has been well served in the last decade by the industry or, more accurately, by Dutton who have recorded symphonies, concertos, tone poems and chamber music in profusion. Before that there were very few commercial recordings. Beecham’s LP of Punch and the Child was one in almost complete isolation. This is the fearlessly brilliant Arnell with a scathing edge variously approximating to Bliss, Copland and Rawsthorne. In 1986 Arnell wrote his Ode to Beecham (orator and orchestra) for the fortieth anniversary of Beecham's founding of the RPO. Punch and the Child is presented here in a single track. Lord Berners' ballet suite The Triumph of Neptune has had two more modern recordings in good stereo, by the RLPO conducted by Barry Wordsworth (EMI Classics CDC 7 47668 2) as well as in the Marco Polo Berners series with David Lloyd-Jones and the English Northern Philharmonia (8.223711). It’s a glossy fest of balletic levity. This jocular and sometimes touching music merits only the occasional hearing. The sincerely poetic Frozen Forest movement acts as a relief from the predominance of 1920s fluff, slapstick and quirky Graingerisms. Just as expected, the Philadelphia - on a rare outing with Beecham - proves polished and ebullient.
Delius’s Arabesque has been recorded more than once but this was its première recording back in 1955. In 1968 John Shirley-Quirk, impressively cloud-hung, sang the piece in Liverpool with Groves for EMI. Shirley-Quirk sang an English translation of the Jacobsen verse. Einar Nørby - singing in Danish - is slower but certainly catches the requisite blend of sighing melancholy, flaring passion and mercurial ecstasy. It is a typically lovely piece to place between the individualistic Arnell ballet and the predominance of charming superficialities in the Berners score.
These mono recordings were once issued by Sony Classics in their Graham Melville-Mason Beecham series: Arnell and Berners; Delius and before that on Sony Essential Classics SBK62748 and Masterworks Portrait MPK 47680.
Would that Pristine - who have a serendipitous touch - could next run to ground that impossibly rare 1955 Argo LP RG 69 of Richard Austin conducting Balfour Gardiner’s Overture to a Comedy and, more to the point, his magically impressionistic April and Philomela. These works for choir and orchestra have a are remarkably Delian patina. Now a freshened up transfer of that would be a red letter event - but Mr Rose will need to find not only a good example but also a suitable coupling.
Rob Barnett 

A fearlessly brilliant and contrasted disc.