Sir Malcolm was one of the leading British composers of the second half of the 20th century.
Sir 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, piano and composition-
After a successful career as first trumpet of the London Philharmonic Orchestra he became a full time composer in 1948. Amongst his first 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 as one of the main contributors to the Hoffnung concerts (“Grand, Grand Overture”, “Grand Concerto Gastronomique”, and “Carnival of Animals” ) and 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.
By the 1970s 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 several serious mental and 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 a large number of fellowships and honours and was knighted for services to music in 1993.
Sir Malcolm died on 23rd September 2006.
A Malcolm Arnold Society was founded in 1991 and since 2006 the town of Northampton celebrates the composer with an annual Malcolm Arnold Festival.