Spare us this feel-good social media nonsense
Regular readers will know I am a passionate advocate of Malcolm Arnold's music, and I was part of his circle in the last few years of his life in the role of web master for his personal website. Sir Malcolm was an inspirational example of how a genius can swim against the tide of fashion without drowning. But portraying him as a feel-good role model does him a grave disservice. In his masterful music darkness too often blocks out the light. He suffered from alcoholism, self-harm, broken marriages, and an acrimonious dispute with his children that lingered after his death. That quote, which is bandied around all over the internet and is, horror of horrors, perpetuated on a fridge magnet, comes from a 1991 BBC Omnibus interview. During it Sir Malcolm also explains "all of my music is biographical". Then in a 1995 interview with Andrew Penny for Naxos's recording of his Ninth Symphony this exchange took place:
Andrew Penny: "Did you think as you began to write the Ninth Symphony that it would be the last thing you wrote?"Presumably this quote is not the stuff of which fridge magnets and feel-good tweets are made.
Sir Malcolm Arnold: "I was rather hoping it would be....(pause)...the piece is an amalgam of all my knowledge of humanity."
AP: "It is a huge, bleak, finale isn't it?"
SMA: (long pause) "....Yes...I wanted it to die away into infinity....."
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