Malcolm Arnold


Malcolm Arnold

Malcolm Arnold (1921 – 2006) was a British composer. Arnold wrote more than 500 works, including 132 film scores, nine symphonies, seven ballets, two operas, 20 concertos, a considerable quantity of chamber music and various works for wind and brass instruments.

Life and Music

  • Arnold was born into a musical Northampton family of shoemakers.  He loathed school and ended up being privately tutored at home, but rapidly discovered the delights of music through the violin, piano and organ.
  • Inspired by his love of jazz, and Louis Armstrong in particular, Arnold took up the trumpet and, aged 16, won a scholarship to study at London's Royal College of Music.

  • It was as a trumpeter that Arnold began his professional career, in the London Philharmonic Orchestra.  It wasn't until 1948, when he won a scholarship to study composition in Italy, that he devoted himself to composing.

  • Arnold struggled with depression and alcoholism throughout his life, in part due to the lack of recognition he received for his music, until the last decade of his life.

  • The British music establishment did not know how to take comic works such as the overture Beckus the Dandipratt.  But as well as the cheeky little urchin he met on a wartime Cornish beach, Arnold also depicts his happiness as a 21-year-old in his marriage to Sheila and his recovery to health after his first big personal crisis in this work.
  • Arnold received many commissions throughout his life, including from Yehudi Menuhin, Julian Lloyd Webber, James Galway and Julian Bream.

  • Malcolm Arnold, ceased writing in 1990 and was knighted in 1993. 

Did you know?

Malcolm Arnold was largely self-taught as a composer.

composer quotes 22 inspiring composer quotes

Malcolm Arnold: "Music is the social act of communication among people, a gesture of friendship, the strongest there is."


Album reviews

Arnold Overtunes Arnold shows his funny side

BBC Philharmonic under Gamba let Malcolm Arnold's wit shine through on this fantastic collection of the British composer's overtures

Arnold Northern CO, Manchester Sinfonia An ear-grabbing Arnold recording

The Northern Chamber Orchestra and the Manchester Sinfonia support standout soloists for a stirring performance of Arnold's best of British

Malcolm Arnold Malcolm Arnold: A Life

Malcolm Arnold fought against alcoholism, mental illness and the music establishment to create an eclectic body of work that embodied his unique artistic vision.

Top Arnold Pieces