Forgotten heroes

Yet another example of never letting the truth get in the way of a good story has appeared on Slipped Disc. Norman Lebrecht suggests the New York Times should have asked Simon Rattle to contribute to its Malcolm Arnold tribute because Rattle "has performed [Arnold's] music since age 15". 

In fact Rattle's only claim to Malcolm Arnold fame was conducting a 1998 performance in Birmingham Arena of the composer's Little Suite No. 2 played by 3495 musicians - the largest orchestra ever assembled. This pseudo-event merited an entry in the Guiness Book of Records, which was the 1990s equivalent of trending on Twitter. During the current Arnold centenary year Sir Simon was too busy bleating about Brexit and moaning that his pleas for a new personal London concert hall had fallen on acoustically imperfect ears to conduct Sir Malcolm's music. So it was left to Sakari Oramo and the BBC Symphony Orchestra to showcase an Arnold symphony at this year's Proms.

The true champion's of Malcolm Arnold's music were Vernon Handley - seen above - and Richard Hickox - seen below. Both recorded all his symphonies supplemented by other orchestral works before they left us for a better place beyond the reaches of fake news. As well as the Arnold symphonies these two forgotten heroes left a priceless recorded legacy. This includes the complete symphonies of Robert Simpson, Arnold Bax, Granville Bantock and Charles Villiers Stanford from Tod Handley, and complete cycles of Edmund Rubbra, William Alwyn and Michael Tippett symphonies from Richard Hickox. (Given the classical establishment's current obsession with virtue signalling and all things Birmingham, it is puzzling that Bantock's settings of Omar Khayyám and Hafiz have not been revived, or indeed, his setting of the eminently click-baitable Sappho.)

Vernon Handley and Richard Hickox's towering achivements are just part of a great recorded legacy that is overlooked by the beleagured celebrity-centric classical industry. Because of this a huge tranche of masterful music remains unkown to many. Sadly the great riches in this legacy will remain unexploited while the classical industry remains in the thrall of peddlers of click bait and fake news. But as I have said before, classical music's biggest problem is that no one cares.


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