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Malcolm Arnold's Demons

Donald Macleod explores Malcolm Arnold's personal demons including alcoholism and subsequent breakdowns.

Donald Macleod explores Malcolm Arnold’s personal demons including alcoholism and subsequent breakdowns.

Sir Malcolm Arnold was a prolific composer, writing music in many different genres ranging from nine symphonies and over twenty concertos, to chamber music, music for brass bands and nearly one hundred and twenty film scores. These many works for film include classics such as Hobson’s Choice, Whistle Down the Wind, the St Trinian’s films, and The Bridge on the River Kwai for which he won an Oscar. He composed works for some of the very top performers in the music industry including Julian Bream, Julian Lloyd Webber, Larry Adler, Frederic Thurston, Benny Goodman, and collaborated with the likes of Deep Purple and Gerard Hoffnung. His music crossed social boundaries and gave pleasure to so many, and yet his personal life was marred by alcoholism, depression and periods of hospitalisation. He’s been described as a larger than life character, outrageous, Falstaffian, Bohemian, and some of the stories which circulated about Arnold have become the stuff of legend.

Across the week Donald Macleod journeys through Sir Malcolm Arnold’s life by exploring five different influences upon the composer’s music, from his love of Cornwall and Ireland, to his interest in being a composer for the people. In today’s programme the focus is upon Arnold’s personal life including alcoholism, emotional and mental breakdowns, to periods in hospital and asylums.

Sir Malcolm Arnold had a dependence upon alcohol for much of his life. He also had a history of poor mental and emotional health, and at times was violent towards others. On many occasions he was admitted to a hospital, or an asylum, and experienced insulin shock treatment, and electro convulsive therapy. His life was far from idyllic, and yet his music gave great pleasure to so many, including his film scores for Hobson’s Choice and The Sound Barrier, to what many consider his best symphony, the Fifth.

Hobson’s Choice (Overture)
London Symphony Orchestra
Richard Hickox, conductor

The Sound Barrier
London Symphony Orchestra
Richard Hickox, conductor

Five Blake Songs, Op 66 No 3 (Allegretto – “How sweet I roamed from field to field”)
Five Blake Songs, Op 66 No 4 (Andante con moto – “My silks and fine array”)
Pamela Bowden, contralto
BBC Northern Orchestra
Malcolm Arnold, conductor

Symphony No 5, Op 74
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Malcolm Arnold, conductor

Produced by Luke Whitlock, for BBC Wales

If you are experiencing emotional stress, help and support is available.
Emotional distress
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/4WLs5NlwrySXJR2n8Snszdg/emotional-distress-information-and-support

Mental health
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/1NGvFrTqWChr03LrYlw2Hkk/information-and-support-mental-health

12 hours left to listen

59 minutes

Last on

Fri 15 Nov 2019 12:00

Music Played

  • Malcolm Arnold

    Hobson's Choice (Overture)

    Orchestra: London Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Richard Hickox.
    • CHANDOS CHAN9100.
    • CHANDOS.
    • 10.
  • Malcolm Arnold

    The Sound Barrier

    Orchestra: London Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Richard Hickox.
    • CHANDOS CHAN9100.
    • CHANDOS.
    • 9.
  • Malcolm Arnold

    5 Blake Songs, Op 66 (extracts)

    Singer: Pamela Bowden. Orchestra: BBC Philharmonic. Conductor: Malcolm Arnold.
    • BBC 1565691817.
    • BBC 1565691817.
    • 18.
  • Malcolm Arnold

    Symphony No 5, Op 74

    Performer: City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Malcolm Arnold.
    • EMI CDM5663242.
    • EMI CDM5663242.
    • 5.

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