Sir Malcolm Henry Arnold, CBE (21 October 1921 – 23 September 2006) was an English composer.
He began his career as a professional trumpeter, but by the time he was thirty he was composing full-time, being bracketed with Britten and Walton as one of the most sought-after composers in Britain. His natural melodic gift earned him a reputation as a composer of light music in works such as the sets of Welsh, English, Scottish, Irish and Cornish Dances, and the scores to the St Trinian's films and Hobson's Choice.
Malcolm Arnold was born in Northampton, the youngest of five children from a prosperous Northampton family of shoemakers. As a rebellious teenager, he was attracted to the creative freedom of jazz. After seeing Louis Armstrong play in Bournemouth, he took up the trumpet, and at the age of seventeen won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music (RCM).
After studying at the RCM he joined the London Philharmonic Orchestra as a trumpeter, eventually becoming principal trumpet. By the end of the 1940s he was concentrating entirely on composition. He was made a CBE in 1970, and knighted in 1993. From 1972 to 1977 he lived in Dublin.
Arnold was a relatively conservative composer of tonal works, but a prolific and popular one. He acknowledged Hector Berlioz as an influence, and several commentators have drawn a comparison with Jean Sibelius. Arnold's most significant works are generally considered to be his nine symphonies. He also wrote a number of concertos, including one for guitar for Julian Bream, and one for harmonica for Larry Adler. His sets of dances, which consist of two sets of English Dances (Opp. 27 and 33), and one set each of Scottish Dances (Op. 59), Irish Dances (Op. 126), Welsh Dances (Op. 138) and Cornish Dances (Op. 91), are in a lighter vein and also popular. One of the English Dances is used as the theme music for the British television programme What the Papers Say. Another popular short work is his Divertimento for Flute, Oboe and Clarinet (Op. 37).
Arnold also wrote many film scores, winning an Academy Award for The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), and also providing music for The Belles of St Trinian's (1954), The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958) and Whistle Down the Wind (1961). He conducted the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in the recording of Deep Purple's Concerto for Group and Orchestra, and conducted the London Symphony Orchestra in the Gemini Suite composed by the group's organist, Jon Lord.
His works are particularly popular with youth and amateur orchestras, partly because of their playability, and also because of the accessibility of his unique style, which combines the musical elements of classical, jazz, popular and folk. He was also the patron of the Rochdale Youth Orchestra until his death in September 2006.
The Leicestershire Schools Symphony Orchestra made the first commercial recording of Divertimento for the Pye label in July 1967 and performed many of his works. Arnold also conducted the orchestra in a 1963 De Montfort Hall concert.
Malcolm Arnold wrote the Trevelyan Suite to mark the opening of Trevelyan College, University of Durham. His daughter was among the first intake of students.
From the early 1970s he was snubbed by large sections of the British music establishment, notably BBC Radio 3 and the Proms. They disliked his success with film music, and that his own work was melodic when atonal was the fashion.
After a decline in both finances and health, Arnold moved to Attleborough, Norfolk, in 1984. He subsequently suffered from front-lobe dementia. His full-time carer Anthony Day not only nursed him, but helped him to align his finances.
Arnold passed away at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, Norwich on 23 September, 2006, after suffering from a chest infection. His last work, The Three Musketeers, was premiered at the Alhambra Theatre in Bradford on the same day in a Northern Ballet production. The score included no new music by Arnold, but excerpts from various of his compositions were arranged by John Longstaff. The original score was compiled by Anthony Meredith.