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Composer’s kids win latest round in bitter estate fight

For the last 22 years of his heavily medicated life, Sir Malcolm Arnold was looked after by a dedicated carer and friend, Anthony Day. Malcolm died in 2006, aged 84. In the will, he left his manuscripts to Anthony Day.

The composer’s two children claim the carer exercised undue influence. They lost their case in the High Court. They won it this week at the Appeal Court. This will run and run.

Meantime, Malcolm’s music is hardly played, remotely if at all.



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  1. Mr Oakmountain says:

    There are two excellent recorded cycles of his symphonies, by Naxos and Chandos respectively.

  2. Nick Hallam says:

    … and there is the annual Arnold Festival held at Derngate in Northampton every October

  3. Sir:

    This now begs the question of what Arnold’s children will do with the manuscripts: will they be archived and made available to the scholaraly community; or will they be left to gather dust; or will they be sold to private collectors (and thus scattered across the world with no guarantee that the owners would take any interest in the music)? What might Mr Day have done?

  4. …and I’d hazard a guess that his English and Scottish dances are the single most-performed post-war British orchestral works, particularly amongst non-professional groups.

  5. … not to mention Tod Handley’s outstanding Arnold cycle for Conifer (buried, of course, by Sony BMG).

  6. A cursory glance at the Official Malcolm Arnold website ( will indicate to all that his music is performed extensively, not only in the UK but also around the world. Loved and performed by professionals and amateurs alike. Moreover, Sir Malcolm’s roster of recorded works places him as one of the most recorded modern British composers in the last 60 years.
    The annual Malcolm Arnold Festival, under its director Paul Harris, takes place this year on 19 and 20th October in the composer’s home town of Northampton. The Ealing Symphony Orchestra, conductor John Gibbons, continue their complete cycle of Arnold symphonies with their performance of Symphony 7 on September 28th.

    “Hardly played”, “remotely if at all”…we think not!

    Fiona Southey
    Sir Malcolm Arnold – Personal Manager

    • Certainly his music is performed a great deal, although he is rather neglected by big budget orchestras, which may be why Norman thinks he is “hardly played”. What is even more remarkable is that there are really quite a few pieces that are played all the time; the English and Scottish Dances, The 2nd Clarinet Concerto, the Fifth Symphony, for that matter, and several others-it is true that most performances are in either England or the States, but still, many good composers would kill for numbers like that. The list on the Arnold site is impressive, but I know from personal contacts and experience that it is far from complete- there are many more performances than even the good numbers on the site suggest. Smaller budget orchestras,chamber orchestras and chamber musicians looking for something to play that they know will appeal to audiences are quick to jump on his music because so much of it is tuneful and immediately appealing. If there is an area of neglect it is the Symphonies except for no.5. I was shocked that in 2005 I conducted the first American performance of no.4, and, Fiona, correct me if I am wrong- I believe there has never been a US performance of no.6 or no.9.

      • You are right – the concert listing on the Malcolm Arnold website is by no means complete, and we always welcome information on any future Arnold performances that might otherwise slip through the net! Symphony 6 does indeed still await its US premiere. Symphony 9 was first performed in the States in March 2000, by the Susquehanna Symphony Orchestra, conductor Sheldon Bair.

  7. Ghillie Forrest says:

    And surely people occasionally watch Hobson’s Choice?

  8. Ghillie Forrest says:

    And surely people occasionally watch Hobson’s Choice?

    And Bridge on the River Kwai?

  9. I was there, listening to the legal argument. For a more balanced view, read the judgments in full – only 36 pages – especially that of Rix LJ. There are some important principles to review here that will affect both the Inheritance Tax treatment of gifts and good practice for anyone who has care of someone else’s finances.

  10. I watched Whistle Down the Wind and The Belles of St Trinians just before Christmas. Then hummed the tunes for weeks afterwards (and of how many recently-deceased symphonic composers can that be said?).

  11. As Director of the Malcolm Arnold Festival (now in its 8th year) I’m constantly aware of both performances and a considerable ongoing interest in Sir Malcolm’s work. The Festival has published two books on his life and work and a third is on the way. As a clarinettist, teacher and examiner, I don’t think a week goes by without hearing someone working at, playing or performing his extremely popular Clarinet Sonatina, with various of his other instrumental works not far behind. His music is truly enduring and whilst other composers may come and go I have a strong suspicion that Malcolm Arnold’s music will be around, and be loved, for a very long time.

  12. This is all very sad. However his excellent brass quintet is frequently played around the world – we in Chaconne Brass played it as recently as last Saturday in the Plaxtol Festival – and his witty ‘Three Shanties’ is a staple of the wind quintet repertoire. I fully concur about his magnificent gifts as a film composer and melodist. Paul Harris sums the situation up very neatly.

  13. Mention of Arnold’s Scottish Dances reminds me how unjustly neglected are the similar dances op. 32 by Scottish composer Iain Hamilton. They have a very authentic flavour and use some magnificent folktunes. And what about his other works? He wrote an opera on the ancient Roman politician and conspirator Catiline (1973). You’ll not have a hope in Helensburgh of hearing that. I certainly haven’t. Wikipedia has a very full list of compositions.

  14. John Kehoe says:

    In fact there are three recorded cycles of the Arnold symphonies. The first recorded cycle to be completed was the one conducted by Vernon Handley with the Royal Philharmonic and made by Conifer Records, produced by Andrew Keener and engineered by Tryggvi Tryggvason. In fact, Conifer recorded nearly 30 of Arnold’s concert works. To mark the composer’s 85th birthday, Decca released an 11-CD Malcolm Arnold Edition – symphonies, concertos, orchestral concert works. How many 20th-century composers get that sort of recognition?

  15. Like most British composers, Malcolm Arnold suffers from prejudice and ignorance and a lack of courage from programmers and marketing departments. Recession means safe programming. Ealing Symphony Orchestra is 3/4s the way through its complete Malcolm Arnold Symphonies cycle (No. 7 on September 28th in St Barnabas Church) and gave the Baltic States premiere of the Fourth Symphony at the Cesis Festival. An event that was so successful that the orchestra has been invited back in 2014 to bring more exciting British music. The audience in Latvia loved the piece – but then they had no pre-conceptions holding back their enjoyment.
    Malcolm’s music has an ability to speak to the general public in a way that few Twentieth composers were able to achieve. This type of facility has always been scorned by the musical world distrustful of the ‘common touch’.We are distrustful of a good tune, particularly in a Symphony and the Fourth contains one of the most glorious and sunny tunes in any symphony!

    Sadly too often British composers are lumped together in ‘all British’ programmes rather than allowed to stand alongside the great works of the European tradition. The latter approach introduces far more people to these pieces and they are often surprised and delighted to hear something new and stimulating alongside the established classics they have paid good money to hear!

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