There is much more to Malcolm Arnold than his Fifth Symphony

That photo shows Malcolm Arnold with rock band Deep Purple at the time of the 1969 Albert Hall premiere of Jon Lord's Concerto for Group and Orchestra for which he conducted the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. On An Overgrown Path made the case for Sir Malcolm's music long before it became a social media cause, and I was privileged to be invited into the composer's inner circle during the last years of his life. So I am delighted that his masterful Fifth Symphony is being performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sakari Oramo at tonight's BBC Prom

But I want to sound a note of caution. Finally ticking the Arnold Fifth Symphony box - this is its first Proms performance - is no more than a step in the right direction. Seven years ago William Alwyn's First Symphony was given a very welcome Proms outing by Sakari Oramo and the BBC SO. Since then not a note of Alwyn has been heard at the Proms. 

Beyond Sir Malcolm's Fifth there are later darker symphonies that deserve - no sorry demand - to be heard by a wide audience. It is not enough to say to audiences "Here is a composer you may not be familiar with" and then move on. We should be saying "Now you have heard a taster, it is time to really get to grips with Sir Malcolm's symphonies". Because audiences need permission to like challenging music.


I've only known Arnold's work for guitar and orchestra and also, of course, his fine work on The Bridge on the River Kwai. I hadn't heard that he'd worked with Deep Purple, a band I've never much liked but I might have to check out Arnold's collaboration with them later!
Unknown said…
I agree with the main point. Choosing the 5th sounds safe, so that we can all forget about Malcolm Arnold again afterwards. I would have picked the 8th. That might have broken some new ground with the public.

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