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MS 933

Reference code

MS 933


Alan Poulton Malcolm Arnold Collection



Administrative / Biographical history


Alan Poulton, writer, composer and pianist was born in Croydon. Educated at St Helen’s College and John Lyon School at Harrow (1954 -1961), he studied the piano from an early age. Alongside a successful and varied management career in industry from 1961 to 1996, he developed an interest in the works of modern British composers such as William Walton, Alan Bush, Alan Rawsthorne, William Alwyn and Malcolm Arnold. From the late 1970s, he extensively researched, documented and assembled catalogues and discographies of their music.

Poulton’s close association with Malcolm Arnold began from the early 1980s. From 1982, he began part-time employment with Arnold, first as music consultant, then later as his business manager until 1985. Following his retirement in 1996, Poulton resumed his close association with Malcolm Arnold, working as his promotion manager from 2003 until the composer’s death in 2006. This work included a range of activities relating to Arnold’s music: establishing contact with previous publishers, assisting current publishers in promoting and marketing Arnold’s music, arranging meetings with musicians and orchestras, encouraging new arrangements, organising new recordings, contacting recording companies and the music press, producing sleeve notes for future issues of Arnold’s music and program notes for performances. In particular, he worked hard on behalf of Arnold to create links back to his earlier life as a composer and to re-connect and re-engage him with his former musical circle during the difficult years of his mental illness.

Poulton has produced a meticulously researched catalogue of Arnold’s prolific output - The Music of Malcolm Arnold – a catalogue published by Faber in 1986, which received good reviews, a revised second edition of which was published by the Malcolm Arnold Society in 2021. Poulton also assisted Tim Brooke at Faber in compiling a useful summary of Arnold’s music - Malcolm Arnold: Complete Catalogue of the Published Works published in 2000. He also persuaded Lengnick to produce a sampler CD of short excerpts from their complete Arnold catalogue and later, two other publishers followed suit with their own Arnold compilation discs.

The research for Poulton’s catalogue of Arnold’s music included a voluminous and diverse correspondence with repositories holding Arnold manuscripts and the musicians with whom Arnold had worked. He undertook detailed research into music long lost or forgotten and during this time he began determined and persistent enquiries about the whereabouts of all of Arnold’s autograph manuscript music scores. He tracked down and obtained copies of manuscript scores from a variety of scattered sources and repositories, and made some important finds, all with the intention of facilitating the eventual return of some of the manuscripts to the composer and re-assemble in complete detail, the vast web of Arnold’s compositions. His focus was to ensure that ultimately, Arnold’s original manuscripts would be housed in a suitable library, properly documented and catalogued for study and research.

He was also involved in the project to organise the programme for the all-Arnold concert at the Royal Festival Hall on 24 Sept 2004 by Arnold’s old orchestra (the London Philharmonic Orchestra), which was timed to coincide with the publication of a new Arnold biography, Malcom Arnold: Rogue Genius by Anthony Meredith and Paul Harris. He continued to visit Malcolm Arnold in Attleborough, Norfolk until the composer’s death in September 2006.

Alongside his abiding interest in Malcolm Arnold’s music, Alan Poulton continued his work on other British composers and his magnum opus, A Dictionary of Modern British Composers (in 3 volumes) was published after 20 years’ work in 2000. Other projects included researching the works of Stephen Sondheim, making regular contributions to the Peterborough column in The Daily Mail and working with the BBC as a question setter on the long-running Radio 4 programme ‘Round Britain Quiz’.

In 2021 Poulton completed and published three further works on Malcom Arnold, - the update of his 1986 Faber catalogue, Malcolm Arnold: catalogue of works; The Film Music of Malcolm Arnold, and Rooted in Northampton - The Arnolds and the Haweses: Malcolm Arnold’s family tree. His latest book A Malcolm Arnold Musical Companion (2023) published again by the Malcolm Arnold Society, is an anthology of his music written by a team of well-respected authors and experts in their field.

He was Chairman of the Malcolm Arnold Society from 2014 to 2021 and is now the Society’s Honorary Vice-President. It was through his initiative that the Society continues to publish an annual journal, Maestro, which promotes the composer’s music.

He has published two memoirs, A Nice Conundrum – my life in two worlds (2020) and Syrup o’ Figs and Sherbet Lemons: Dramatised Scenes from a Bitter-Sweet Childhood (2022).

Poulton’s collection contains his important Arnold research papers, printed music, audio-visual, ephemera and reference material which are an essential resource for the study of the music of Malcolm Arnold and which complement, enrich and support the unique Malcolm Arnold Archive (MS 921), also held in Eton College Library.

Further reference:




Extent & medium

57 boxes or records,1 roll of posters, 1 portfolio of film stills, c.16 storage containers of audio-visual recordings,1 sound system, c.200 printed books

Content description

The collection comprises Alan Poulton's collection of research notes and source material relating to his extensive study of the work of the British composer Sir Malcolm Arnold (1921-2006). It includes Poulton's own notes; extensive ephemera relating to Arnold's music in concert and in film; a large collection of Arnold's printed sheet music and copies of manuscript scores; a large collection of recordings of Arnold's music on vinyl, CD, tape and DVD; photographs, press cuttings, and interviews. The collection also includes reference books relating to Malcolm Arnold and his music and to other British composers and musicians.

Physical characteristics

Includes a range of audio-visual material including vinyl, tape, CDs and DVDs. Access to this material can be arranged with advance notice.

Associated material

The Malcolm Arnold archive is catalogued separately [MS 921]

Conditions of access and use area

Copyright of original material by Alan Poulton is held by him.

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