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Old 11-04-2006, 12:34 PM
Botnst's Avatar
What knockers!
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: There castle.
Posts: 41,508
What's the score?

I've never heard of This guy have you? I'm going to look for his music.


Discovering Malcolm Arnold

Terry Teachout

When Malcolm Arnold died in September, the obituaries in several of England’s leading newspapers referred to him in the headline as a “film composer.” The Guardian summed up his life’s work as follows:

The tormented but irrepressible career of Sir Malcolm Arnold, the most recorded British composer of all time and the first to win an Oscar, ended last night with his death at the age of eighty-four.

Not until the fourth paragraph did readers of the Guardian learn that in addition to scoring The Bridge on the River Kwai (for which he won his Oscar in 1958) and 131 other movies, Arnold also found time to write nine symphonies, two dozen concertos, and numerous other orchestral and chamber works.

While the critical “appreciations” that ran the next day were better informed, few did more than sketch the outlines of this composer’s controversial career, and they did so at times evasively. The BBC, for instance, declared that “while some regarded [Arnold] as one of the pre-eminent composers of his generation, others saw him as superficial and flippant.” The BBC failed to mention that its own music controllers had long made no secret of their disdain for his music.

Meanwhile, in American newspapers, Arnold’s death went largely unmentioned—for the good reason that his compositions are virtually unknown to American audiences. To the extent that he has a following in this country, it is mainly through the recordings that have been made of his symphonies in recent years.1 Indeed, until a few months ago Malcolm Arnold was little more than a name to me, too. In a lifetime of concert-going, I had never heard a public performance of any of his works. All I knew was that he was widely regarded as a lightweight—a judgment reinforced by his bluff, breezy personal manner and the self-deprecating statements he made about his own music. (“If you can say it in words of one syllable, musically speaking, it’s your duty to do so.”)

It was only after learning that he suffered from a lifelong case of manic depression so malignant it had brought his career to a premature end that it occurred to me to question the received wisdom about Arnold. Intrigued that he had none-theless managed to produce a substantial body of work, I procured a copy of Malcolm Arnold: Rogue Genius (2004), a biography by Anthony Meredith and Paul Harris that has yet to be published in this country.2 What I read there was so fascinating that I decided to listen to Arnold’s Fifth Symphony, composed in 1961.

Most of the British critics who covered the premiere of this piece did so in a brutally dismissive fashion. The London Observer’s Peter Heyworth, for instance, called it the work of a “tub-thumper” who had “thrown the last shreds of discretion to the winds,” while the anonymous critic for the London Times claimed that it suggested “a creative personality in an advanced stage of disintegration.” To my amazement, Arnold’s Fifth turned out to be not a shoddy piece of crowd-pleasing yard goods but a compelling, fully realized example of mid-century modernism that was worthy of comparison with the best symphonies of Prokofiev and Shostakovich. From the Fifth, I went on to listen to the rest of his symphonies and a considerable number of his other works. By the time I was done, it was clear to me that Arnold, far from being a lightweight, was in fact a major composer.

Why, then, had he been written off by the critics? Thereby, I was to learn, hangs a tale of snobbery, provincialism, and aesthetic ideology run rampant—as well as a chronicle of self-destructive behavior that is, in the fullest sense of an oft-misused word, tragic.

Very much more at:

'Government is like a baby:
An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and
no sense of responsibility at the other'
- Ronald Reagan
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Old 11-04-2006, 03:31 PM
djugurba's Avatar
say: Jook-Ur-Pah
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Lake Boon, MA
Posts: 987
I've performed several of his dances:
the sets of four each english (2 sets), scottish, irish, welsh, & cornish dances are very enjoyable.

I'm pretty sure he did something with Deep Purple in the late 60s too... wierd.

Lately I'm pretty addicted to Alberto Ginastera's Estancia...

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