By Joshua Cheek
Sir Malcolm Arnold
Sir Malcolm Arnold embraced the recorder as featured solo instrument for a series of miniature masterworks. Following studies at London’s Royal College of Music, Arnold began his career as a professional trumpet player, eventually becoming Principle Trumpet in the London Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1948, he won the Royal Academy of Music’s Mendelssohn Scholarship, which enabled him to study composition in Italy.
From that point, he would focus exclusively on composition. Like Holmboe, Arnold was an extraordinarily prolific composer, writing more than 500 works, including 132 film scores, nine symphonies, seven ballets, two operas, 20 concertos and a considerable quantity of chamber music. Arnold’s music has never lacked for an audience; his innate talent for writing catchy melodies, backed with his confident craftsmanship won over performers and listeners alike. Only the critics who found value in the number of dissonances a composer served up found reason to complain.
Michala Petri writes:
“I met Arnold for the first time after he had come to a concert with his friend Anthony Day. The concert was with my mother, Hanne, and brother, David, and not far from their home in Norfolk. I was very impressed to know that they were in the audience, since I of course knew Malcolm Arnold’s name. I immediately followed my habit of asking a composer to write something for me, and to my surprise, he agreed!
As it turned out, Sir Malcolm had largely given up composing by that time. He wrote a concerto for me, and later a solo piece (Fantasy for Recorder, Op. 127 (1987)), and some years later, a piece for recorder and string quartet (Fantasy for Recorder and String Quartet, Op. 140 (1990)), premiered at Weil Recital Hall during Carnegie Hall’s 100th Anniversary.”