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About Malcolm Arnold

Sir Malcolm Arnold

Sir Malcolm Arnold was one of the leading British composers of the second half of the 20th century.

Malcolm Henry Arnold was born on 21st October 1921, in Northampton.
The Great-Grandson of William Hawes, the head of all music for the Chapels Royal and St Paul’s.

In 1937 Sir Malcolm was awarded a scholarship at the Royal College of Music in London, where he studied the trumpet with Ernest Hall and composition with Gordon Jacob.

After a successful career as the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s first trumpet, he became a full-time composer in 1948. Amongst his early successes were the overture “Beckus the Dandipratt”, the two sets of “English Dances”, the overture “Tam O’Shanter”, the ballet “Homage to the Queen”, and his first two symphonies.

By the late 50s, he achieved fame in other circles. He became one of the main contributors to the Hoffnung concerts (“Grand, Grand Overture”, “Grand Concerto Gastronomique”, and “Carnival of Animals” ).

He also made himself a name as a composer of film scores, including the hugely successful “Bridge on the River Kwai” directed by David Lean, for which Sir Malcolm won an Oscar.

He continued his concert hall successes with works such as the “Four Scottish Dances”, the Double Violin Concerto, the Guitar Concerto, several ballets, the “Four Cornish Dances”, the famous “Peterloo Overture” and four more symphonies. He became one of the most sought-after composers alongside Benjamin Britten and William Walton.

At the end of the 1960s, he had distanced himself somewhat from the British music scene by moving to Ireland. Works produced during that period included Symphonies 7 and 8, the Philharmonic Concerto, the “John Field Fantasy” for piano and orchestra, the Second String Quartet and his jazzy Clarinet Concerto No.2 (dedicated to and first performed by Benny Goodman).

Arnold suffered from severe health problems in the late 70s and early 80s and stopped composing for some years. However, he resumed his career in the mid-80s and created works such as the “Four Irish Dances”, a Cello Concerto and Symphony No 9. He retired from composing in 1991.

During his life, Sir Malcolm was awarded many fellowships and honours and was knighted for services to music in 1993. (See list below). Sir Malcolm died on 23rd September 2006.

The Malcolm Arnold Society was founded in 1991, and since 2006 the town of Northampton has celebrated the composer with an annual Malcolm Arnold Festival.


Honours and awards

1937 – Scholarship to the Royal College of Music
1941 – W. W. Cobbett Prize, 2nd prize for Vita Abundans
1948 – Mendelssohn Scholarship
1951 – Venice Film Festival 1st prize in the music documentary class for Science in the Orchestra
1956 – Freedom of the City of London
1958 – Academy Award for the music to The Bridge on the River Kwai
1959 – Ivor Novello Award for the music to The Inn of the Sixth Happiness
1969 – Honorary Doctorate, University of Exeter
1969 – Bard of the Gorsedh Kernow
1970 – Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE)
1982 – Honorary Doctorate, University of Durham
1983 – Fellowship of the Royal College of Music, London
1984 – Honorary Doctorate, University of Leicester
1985 – Honorary Member, Royal Academy of Music, London
1986 – Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Services to British Music
1987 – Wavendon AllMusic Composer of the Year
1989 – Honorary Doctorate, Miami University of Ohio
1989 – Freedom of the Borough of Northampton
1992 – Fellowship of the Trinity College of Music, London
1993 – Knighthood for services to music
1994 – Honorary President, Victoria College of Music, London
1997 – Fellowship of the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester
2001 – Fellow of the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (now Ivors Academy)
2003 – Honorary Doctorate, University of Winchester
2004 – Distinguished Musician Award, Incorporated Society of Musicians
2006 – Honorary Doctorate, University of Northampton