arnold companion

A Malcolm Arnold Musical Companion
Editors: Alan Poulton; David Dunstan
336 pp. Hardback & Paperback
ISBN-13 979-8863171234
Published 2023
Malcolm Arnold Society

The Malcolm Arnold vista – and it’s a Grand Canyon of a landscape – has here been lavishly documented on both recording and in print. Lavishly, yes, but not comprehensively. This comparatively inexpensive yet sturdy book (hardback and paperback options) makes major inroads even if there are other strides to be taken through Arnold country.

Scroll down to the Contents below and you will begin to gain an impression of what is there; and there’s a lot. The Poulton/Arnold Society film music book offers a thorough ‘handle’ on the film scores (review) and now the same team do pilgrim service for Arnold’s concert, recital and stage music.

The present book is the work of editors Alan Poulton and David Dunstan who corral their own articles as well as those of many other Arnold ‘voices’. This book, though ploughing a very wide swathe, is not comprehensive. It is a Companion, not an encyclopaedic Handbook. It does what it sets out to do, so do not expect to find entries for everything.

Many of the essays are drawn from issues of the Arnold Society’s quarterly publications Beckus and Maestro. As you can see from the Contents list the book is divided into parts for each of the musical media/structures such as Chamber music, Ballets, Stage and Choral. Within each part nestle separate essays on particular works or specific ‘forms’ including guitar, brass band, overtures, chamber music, concertos and sinfoniettas.

There is a short index that, together with the contents section, holds your hand through the book. There is no general overarching index but this is not much of a detriment given that the book is lucidly divided into sixty sections, most of which focus on particular works. The sections are, in two cases, addressed by two authors (horn concertos and cello concerto).

The authors – there are 35 of them – are each briefly profiled at the start. Anyone who has delved into the Arnold literature, attended the Arnold weeks in Northampton or listened to the now numerous Arnold recordings are odds-on to recognise the names. Alan Poulton contributes valuably to each section. Other names likely to be familiar include John Gibbons, Piers Burton-Page (author of superb books on the History of BBC Radio 3 and an autobiography), Lewis Foreman, Paul R W Jackson, Andrew Penny, David Dunstan, Michala Petri, Anthony Meredith, John Wallace, Stephen Banfield, Janet Hilton, Julian Lloyd Webber and Leon Bosch. Other names will be familiar in years to come.

What you will not find is an essay for each and every one of the nine Symphonies; twelve if you count The Toy Symphony, Symphony for Brass and Symphony for Strings; the last two not covered here. For the numbered nine you can go to two articles apiece for symphonies 4 and 9; otherwise spread your wings and head for Paul R.W. Jackson’s book The Life and Music of Sir Malcolm Arnold (2003, Ashgate). Other works not the subject of articles/essays here include the Ruth Gipps Variations, Fantasy for Audience Op. 106 which rather like another Prom ‘special’ by another Malcolm (Malcolm Williamson’s The Stone Wall) exercises a fascination. There’s nothing here for the Cornish, English and Scottish Dances, Divertimento No 1 or the first two and last two Little Suites and A Manx Suite. There are other chinks in the armoury but do not be misled: there is a brimming wealth of coverage here extending far and wide. I would be surprised if you did not make more than a few discoveries.

The articles are illustrated with music examples, score page reproductions, tables, the occasional photograph, and footnotes. They, of necessity, vary in style – which helps with a work of this demeanour. They balance historical context with some musical analysis.

For me, the most treasured sections cover the more obscure corners including the operas and stage works (Part 4) and choral and song (Part 5). Where else can we read about the musical Parasol (Arnold’s only musical), The Tempest and the outstanding stub and wreckage of a sadly incomplete Festival of Britain opera Henry Christophe? The latter I heard at one of the Arnold Weeks in Northampton – deeply impressive. If that score had been completed it would have shared a place in the clouded sun with Alan Bush’s The Sugar Reapers, David Blake’s Toussaint, Williamson’s Our Man in Havana and The Violins of Saint-Jacques. Other works covered, which stir enough curiosity to surely warrant recording projects include the Communist Manifesto Pageant and The Salute to Thomas Merritt.

This book attests to Arnold’s utter professionalism. He could turn his fecund mind and hand to any medium and idea. In so doing he also wrote music that has endless charms and gleeful delights.

Rob Barnett

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Part 1. Orchestral and brass band
Concerto for 28 Players – Piers Burton-Page
Divertimento No.2 – Alan Poulton
Festival Overture – Alan Poulton
Irish and Welsh Dances – Andrew Penny
Little Suite for Brass No.3 – Paul RW Jackson
Overtures – Piers Burton-Page
Salute to Thomas Merritt – Ian Graham-Jones
Sinfoniettas – Piers Burton-Page
A Sunshine Overture – Alan Poulton
Symphony No.4: An exercise in accessibility – David Dunstan
Symphony No.4: Resonances for today – Piers Burton-Page
Symphony No.9: A difficult birth – Piers Burton-Page
Symphony No.9: A new approach – John Gibbons
Toy Symphony – Alan Poulton
Arranging Arnold for brass band – Neil Richmond

Part 2. Concertos
The Concertos – Isaac Adni
Cello Concerto – Michael Jameson and David Ellis
Clarinet Concerto No.2 – Eleanor Fox
Guitar works – Kenneth Kam
Harmonica Concerto – Alan Poulton
Horn Concertos: Malcolm Arnold and Dennis Brain – William C Lynch
Recorder works – Michala Petri
Trumpet Concerto – John Wallace

Part 3. Ballets
The Ballets – Paul RW Jackson
Homage to the Queen – Anthony Meredith
Solitaire – Anthony Meredith
The Three Musketeers – Anthony Meredith
Three Musketeers & Three Manuscripts – Anthony Meredith
The ‘other’ ballets – Alan Poulton
Invitation to the Dance – Alan Poulton

Part 4. Operas and stage works
Henry Christophe – Lewis Foreman
The Dancing Master – Lewis Foreman
The Open Window – Piers Burton-Page
Up at the Villa – Alan Poulton
Candlemas Night – Alan Poulton
For Mr Pye An Island – Piers Burton-Page
Parasol – Alan Poulton and Ian Hytch
Purple Dust – Anthony Meredith
The Tempest – Thomas Nettle

Part 5. Choral and song
Choral music – Simon Toyne
Songs – Stephen Banfield
Communist Manifesto Pageant – Alan Poulton
Greyfriars School Song – Piers Burton-Page

Part 6. Chamber and instrumental music
Chamber music – Ian Brown
Brass Quintet No.2 – Bryan Allen
Clarinet works – Janet Hilton
Concert Piece for Percussion – Alan Poulton
Fantasy for Bassoon – Laurence Perkins
Fantasy for Cello – Julian Lloyd Webber
Fantasy for Double Bass – Leon Bosch
Fantasy for Flute – Carl Willetts
Fantasy for Harp – Keziah Thomas
Fantasy for Horn – Frank Lloyd
Fantasy for Oboe – Sarah Roper
Fantasy for Trombone – Dan Jenkins
Fantasy for Trumpet – John Wallace
Fantasy for Tuba – John Elliott
String Quartets – Piers Burton-Page
Variations on a Ukrainian Folk Song – Timothy Bowers
Wind Quintet – David Morris