5 things you should know about Malcolm Arnold

Here are five things you need to know about Malcolm Arnold, the British musician behind some of the most beautiful film scores around

British composer Sir Malcolm Arnold was a legendary musician in his time, known primarily for his beautiful film scores. This year marks the centenary of the composer’s birth, and to celebrate, Cheltenham Music Festival will be screening two of his most beloved films—The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958) and Whistle Down the Wind (1961).

Here are five things you should know about the legendary composer.

He started life as a professional trumpeter

A trumpet

Arnold took up the trumpet aged 12, after watching Louis Armstrong play live in Bournemouth. Just five years later he won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music and ended up joining the London Philharmonic Orchestra. He became principal trumpet player of the LPO in 1943, leaving in 1948 to become a full-time composer.

He wrote over 100 film scores

One of the most prolific and successful composers for the cinema of the 20th century, Arnold is credited for having written a staggering 132 film scores for feature films and documentaries. Most of his film writing was heard in the films of the 1950s and 60s, including the St Trinian’s film series.

He was one of the first British composers ever to win an Oscar

Oscar statues

The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) was an epic war film set during the construction of the Burma Railway. It was the highest-grossing film of the year and won an amazing seven Academy Awards, and is now included in the American Film Institute’s list of best films ever made.

Arnold wrote the stunning soundtrack for the film, describing it as the “worst job I ever had in my life”, because he only had ten days to write an entire film’s worth of music. Despite that, he ended up winning an Oscar and a Grammy, one of the first ever British composers to do so.

He wrote concertos for Julian Lloyd Webber and Benny Goodman

Not only did Arnold write film scores, but he also wrote nine symphonies and a large number of concertos, often for famous performers of the day. His guitar concerto was dedicated to the legendary Julian Bream, and his 1988 Cello Concerto, commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Society, was written for Julian Lloyd Webber, the cellist brother of musical mogul Andrew. Arnold even dabbled with famous jazz clarinetist Benny Goodman, writing two clarinet concertos for him in 1949 and 1974.

There is now an annual Malcolm Arnold Festival

In his birthplace of Northampton, there is now an annual festival celebrating the legacy of the beloved composer. Established in the year of the composer’s passing, musicians and audiences now come from far and wide every October to share his music.

Cheltenham Music Festival takes place from July 2-11. The two Malcolm Arnold films will be screened on July 2 and July 3 at the Cheltenham Playhouse. Tickets and more information on the Festival are available here

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