Discovering… The Bridge on the River Kwai

The BBC is continuing their Our Classical Century series this month… Malcolm Arnold plays a big role in two programmes on 7th April:

Discovering… Episode 3 of 4:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m00041td

…Katie Derham presents the BBC Concert Orchestra performing The Bridge on the River Kwai in full from the Watford Colosseum with conductor Christopher Seaman. Before the performance, Katie speaks to Christopher and to several members of the orchestra to learn more about the composer and the symphonic qualities he brought to the score. Understanding the instruments of the orchestra as well as Arnold did makes his music extremely satisfying to play.

Katie discovers how Arnold managed to create such an iconic soundtrack in only ten days, and composer Debbie Wiseman, who herself composes prolifically for cinema, uses scenes from The Bridge on the River Kwai to demonstrate how the music is interwoven with the rest of the film’s soundtrack. We see how Arnold’s understanding of the orchestra allowed him to use the right instruments in the right registers to complement to action on screen.

Katie also learns the fascinating story of Arnold’s own life – a pacifist who shot himself in the foot to get medically discharged during World War II, and a diagnosed schizophrenic who suffered with mental illness and alcoholism throughout his life. We see how he nonetheless remained an outgoing, engaging and well-loved figure, before hearing his Bridge on the River Kwai suite performed in full.


Our Classical Century Episode 3 of 4:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m00041tg

…Suzy [Klein] reveals how Lean commissioned the piece which brought Oscar glory for Best Score to British composer Malcom Arnold in 1958, for Lean’s cinematic tour de force Bridge on the River Kwai. Arnold – an eclectic, dynamic and prolific composer – produced a powerful score for this film about prisoners in a Japanese camp building a bridge for the Burma Railway. Composer Neil Brand reflects on Arnold’s ability to conjure the pain and hardship of wartime imprisonment and forced labour.

On 24th September 1969 another epic musical collaboration took place between Jon Lord with the heavy metal band Deep Purple and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Malcolm Arnold at the Royal Albert Hall. Ian Gillan describes how the orchestra turned up their noses at a collaboration with a heavy metal band…