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MS 921

Reference code

MS 921


Malcolm Arnold archive



Administrative / Biographical history

Arnold, Malcolm (1921-2006)
Arnold, Sir Malcolm Henry (1921–2006), trumpeter and composer, was born in Northampton on 21 October 1921. He was raised in the Methodist tradition. Arnold’s mother encouraged him to learn the violin. At the age of twelve he heard Louis Armstrong performing at the Royal Bath Hotel, and began to collect his records; he also began to learn the trumpet. At sixteen he was awarded a scholarship to study at the Royal College of music, where he studied under Ernest Hall and Gordon Jacob.
In 1941 Arnold was made second trumpet in the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and was soon made first trumpet. In that same year his brother Philip died during an RAF mission. Arnold was himself called up, but registered as a conscientious objector. Later changing his mind, he was posted to a military band; resenting this, he shot himself in the foot and was discharged, narrowly escaping court-marshal.
In 1942 Arnold had married Sheila Nicholson (1919-2009), herself a violinist. They had three children: a daughter, who was stillborn, Katherine (b.1948) and Robert (b.1950). The couple divorced in 1962, and Arnold married Isobel Katharine Gray, with whom he had a son, Edward. After Edward was diagnosed with autism the family moved to Cornwall. The couple later separated, reuniting briefly in Dublin and divorcing in 1975.
Returning to the London Philharmonic Orchestra, he began to compose and in 1948 left the orchestra to compose full-time. His first symphony was completed in 1949. He would write nine in total.
In 1947 Arnold began to compose scores for the Denham film studios. By the 1960s he had written almost 130 scores, including I am a Camera (1955), The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958), The Angry Silence (1960), Tunes of Glory (1960), and Whistle Down the Wind (1961).
Arnold had attempted suicide after his separation from Isobel, and in 1977 he returned to England from Ireland to be treated for psychosis and alcoholism. His health deteriorated, and in 1988 he had a heart attack. Towards the end of his life he returned to composition, completing his ninth and final symphony in 1986.
In 1993 Arnold, already appointed CBE, was given a knighthood.
Malcolm Arnold died in Norwich on 23rd September 2006.

References: Piers Burton-Page, ‘Arnold, Sir Malcolm Henry (1921–2006)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Jan 2010; online edn, Jan 2011 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/97392, accessed 30 Nov 2015]



Extent & medium

2 shelves (TBC)

Content description

The Malcolm Arnold archive consists predominantly of Arnold's autograph music scores, spanning the length of his lifetime and the breadth of his musical abilities. The manuscripts include scores written for orchestra, chamber, solo piano and film to name but a few. The majority of these are fair copy manuscripts but some are performance copies and/or have ms. markings and annotations on them. Accompanying the music scores are autograph letters to Malcolm Arnold from a number of his contemporaries, several scrapbooks, sheet music owned by Malcolm Arnold and photograph albums.


Archive is on loan to Eton College Library from Katherine Arnold. Part of the archive was also previously on loan to the Royal College of Music.

Associated material

Papers relating to Malcolm Arnold are also held at The National Archives [under the ref: OPG 3]

Conditions of access and use area

The 5th tranche of papers containing court proceedings is restricted and access should not be given to researchers
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