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Sir Malcolm Arnold (1921-2006)


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Author Topic: Sir Malcolm Arnold (1921-2006)  (Read 2028 times)
ahinton
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« Reply #15 on: March 18, 2014, 08:39:10 am »

The criticism of Arnold which I have read (and to risk the ire and indignation of Mr. Hinton I shall not quote my source Grin) says that he was..

"a prolific, sometimes brilliant and often depressingly banal composer totally out of touch with the developments of the second half of the 20th century.His orchestral command is sometimes powerful enough to have an infectious sparkle, but he writes in an idiom whose basis is so anachronistic that-apart from the music written for pure entertainment, which carries its own built-in purpose-it seems to have little relevance."

This was written in 1996 by someone whose musical judgments are-in the main- extremely sound (although he is not enthusiastic about either Tubin or Robert Simpson either Sad)
Ah, but at least it was "written" and presumably published somewhere, so your source could be quoted if you so chose or indeed if someone else managed to recognise and identify it and its author! So - nothing ire-ish from me here!

I don't agree with the writer's sentiments either. Arnold knew as much as most about "developments of the second half of the 20th century"; on the grounds of what evidence does the writer assume otherwise? He wrote in the "idiom" that he chose to - and there's quite a gulf between all the (expertly written) deliberately lightweight stuff and, say, the 7th and 9th symphonies.

If the writer doesn't have much time for Simpson either, one might be tempted to conclude that this paragraph is merely illusrtative of the fact that, whoever he/she is/was, he/she doesn'#t much approve of post-1950 tonal British symphonies at all...

If anything's "irrelevant" here, it's surely the content of ths paragraph, which is largely personal opinion and "seems to have little" fact...
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« Reply #16 on: March 18, 2014, 04:20:49 pm »

The author of the quoted extract was Mark Morris Smiley

Amongst 20th Century British composers those on whom Morris lavishes most praise are the usually accepted "great names", including Vaughan Williams, Bax and Walton. Three composers who stand out as meriting Morris's approval are Havergal Brian, Alun Hoddinott..........and Edmund Rubbra.

Now...I don't dissent from any argument that these three composers wrote a very great deal of magnificent music.....BUT, in what fashion is the music of Edmund Rubbra "in touch with the developments of the second half of the 20th century" (as understood by Mr. Morris) Huh Surely he should equally be dismissing Rubbra's music as "anachronistic" and of "little relevance" Huh The music of Malcolm Arnold-and in particular Arnold's later music-sounds a lot more "modern" to my ears than does that of Edmund Rubbra.
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« Reply #17 on: March 18, 2014, 06:04:48 pm »

"a prolific, sometimes brilliant and often depressingly banal composer totally out of touch with the developments of the second half of the 20th century.His orchestral command is sometimes powerful enough to have an infectious sparkle, but he writes in an idiom whose basis is so anachronistic that-apart from the music written for pure entertainment, which carries its own built-in purpose-it seems to have little relevance."

"Bona fide moron" Huh Well, that is John's phrase, not mine Grin Whether you think it is "moronic" to criticise a composer for composing "irrelevant music" is up to you. But I could certainly produce a very long list of composers who might well be deemed to have composed "irrelevant music". The fact that most of it happens to include many of my favourite pieces of music must make my musical tastes, judgments and opinions "irrelevant" too Roll Eyes

To roundly denounce Arnold's output as mere light-weight, anachronistic froth not only displays a staggering ignorance of his output as a whole and his compositional methods, but also betrays a gross pomposity which assumes that anything written to entertain is by definition second-rate. Arnold was a master-craftsman, as close study of his symphonies and concertante works will show. The two books mentioned earlier in the thread (Composers on the 9 and Strings, Winds, Pipes, Piano and Food) are essential reading, as is Raphael Thone's Malcolm Arnold - A Composer of Real Music: Symphonic Writing, Style and Aesthetics. He hid his craft well, not intending that it should get in the way of communication, hence his frequently so-brief-as-to-be-virtually-useless programme notes. If the music couldn't speak for itself he was not going to prop it up with abstruse analysis. For a critic not to do his/ her research properly and pass dubious value judgments based on ignorance is moronic and frankly embarrassing.

 Roll Eyes

Arnold, just like Malcolm Williamson, simply did not see the point of writing in a dry, mathematically-formulated idiom that conveyed little emotion to an average audience, if indeed it conveyed anything other than polite bewilderment or simple boredom. He knew all about serialism and used tone-rows in several of his works, but with the result than tonality is sometimes undermined but never destroyed and there is still scope for the invention of memorable tunes (a dirty word to some critics, often those who wish to appear in the intellectual vanguard): the listener is frequently challenged (but never cut-adrift) whilst being simultaneously entertained (but never patronised). He wanted his music to communicate, and give pleasure to performers and audiences - these are goals which make his music surely more rather than less relevant.

 Cheesy
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« Reply #18 on: March 18, 2014, 10:59:47 pm »

Drowning under the flood of uploads from jowcol I can do no more than "well said", John Grin
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« Reply #19 on: March 18, 2014, 11:56:38 pm »

Amongst 20th Century British composers those on whom Morris lavishes most praise are the usually accepted "great names", including Vaughan Williams, Bax and Walton. Three composers who stand out as meriting Morris's approval are Havergal Brian, Alun Hoddinott..........and Edmund Rubbra.

I would think the existence of those composers would give the lie to any claim that Arnold's music is "anachronistic"—it is clearly related to that of many if not most contemporary British composers—the ones mentioned as well as e.g. George Lloyd, William Alwyn etc—as well as contemporary film music (Elmer Bernstein, Bernard Herrmann etc) and Shostakovich who is a more significant influence on Arnold than is usually acknowledged I think. It would be anachronistic if he were writing in the style of, e.g. Parry or Stanford or Elgar—then I could understand the claims. But even then, if there were a significant number of other composers writing contemporary music in a similar style, and being performed and teaching and so on, it would cease to be an anachronism and simply become an unusually long-lived style, much as the stile antico of Palestrina and Byrd continued to find adherents in church music up until the 18th century.

People have to stop using words like "anachronistic" and "irrelevant" and so on (or "emotionless", "kitsch", "difficult" etc) when they just mean "I don't like it." Such value judgments carry with them the assumption that you are part of a consensus; of course everyone agrees with you, except a few deluded misfits. In reality classical music is not so one-dimensional that there is room for a consensus. Music is rich and complex, and no two people hear it the same way.
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« Reply #20 on: March 19, 2014, 08:54:25 am »

Amongst 20th Century British composers those on whom Morris lavishes most praise are the usually accepted "great names", including Vaughan Williams, Bax and Walton. Three composers who stand out as meriting Morris's approval are Havergal Brian, Alun Hoddinott..........and Edmund Rubbra.

I would think the existence of those composers would give the lie to any claim that Arnold's music is "anachronistic"—it is clearly related to that of many if not most contemporary British composers—the ones mentioned as well as e.g. George Lloyd, William Alwyn etc—as well as contemporary film music (Elmer Bernstein, Bernard Herrmann etc) and Shostakovich who is a more significant influence on Arnold than is usually acknowledged I think. It would be anachronistic if he were writing in the style of, e.g. Parry or Stanford or Elgar—then I could understand the claims. But even then, if there were a significant number of other composers writing contemporary music in a similar style, and being performed and teaching and so on, it would cease to be an anachronism and simply become an unusually long-lived style, much as the stile antico of Palestrina and Byrd continued to find adherents in church music up until the 18th century.

People have to stop using words like "anachronistic" and "irrelevant" and so on (or "emotionless", "kitsch", "difficult" etc) when they just mean "I don't like it." Such value judgments carry with them the assumption that you are part of a consensus; of course everyone agrees with you, except a few deluded misfits. In reality classical music is not so one-dimensional that there is room for a consensus. Music is rich and complex, and no two people hear it the same way.
Excellent sense - and from Albion, too. The trouble with far too many (thought mercifully by no means all) critical commentators is that they tend too often to prefer the sounds of their own voices to those of the music about which they write.
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« Reply #21 on: March 20, 2014, 03:43:01 am »

The author of the quoted extract was Mark Morris Smiley

Amongst 20th Century British composers those on whom Morris lavishes most praise are the usually accepted "great names", including Vaughan Williams, Bax and Walton. Three composers who stand out as meriting Morris's approval are Havergal Brian, Alun Hoddinott..........and Edmund Rubbra.

Now...I don't dissent from any argument that these three composers wrote a very great deal of magnificent music.....BUT, in what fashion is the music of Edmund Rubbra "in touch with the developments of the second half of the 20th century" (as understood by Mr. Morris) Huh Surely he should equally be dismissing Rubbra's music as "anachronistic" and of "little relevance" Huh The music of Malcolm Arnold-and in particular Arnold's later music-sounds a lot more "modern" to my ears than does that of Edmund Rubbra.
I think exposing "flawed thinking" is always interesting and insures a spirited dialogue as it did here. While it is difficult to be critical about music "you just don't like", one would think Mark Morris would have mastered better judgment in his critique, especially of a composer (Arnold) who many think has real merit.
I think the music written by Pierre Boulez is ("you chose the worst negative word"). But I know it would be far better to say I found little of value in what I heard and/or feel I had personally wasted much time in trying to appreciate it. A bit sterile and colorless a critique perhaps, but much less likely to offend.
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ahinton
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« Reply #22 on: March 20, 2014, 08:09:33 am »

The author of the quoted extract was Mark Morris Smiley

Amongst 20th Century British composers those on whom Morris lavishes most praise are the usually accepted "great names", including Vaughan Williams, Bax and Walton. Three composers who stand out as meriting Morris's approval are Havergal Brian, Alun Hoddinott..........and Edmund Rubbra.

Now...I don't dissent from any argument that these three composers wrote a very great deal of magnificent music.....BUT, in what fashion is the music of Edmund Rubbra "in touch with the developments of the second half of the 20th century" (as understood by Mr. Morris) Huh Surely he should equally be dismissing Rubbra's music as "anachronistic" and of "little relevance" Huh The music of Malcolm Arnold-and in particular Arnold's later music-sounds a lot more "modern" to my ears than does that of Edmund Rubbra.
I think exposing "flawed thinking" is always interesting and insures a spirited dialogue as it did here. While it is difficult to be critical about music "you just don't like", one would think Mark Morris would have mastered better judgment in his critique, especially of a composer (Arnold) who many think has real merit.
I think the music written by Pierre Boulez is ("you chose the worst negative word"). But I know it would be far better to say I found little of value in what I heard and/or feel I had personally wasted much time in trying to appreciate it. A bit sterile and colorless a critique perhaps, but much less likely to offend.
I think that someone should mount a concert with Boulez's Pli selon pli as the first half and Arnold's Ninth Symphony occupying the second...
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« Reply #23 on: March 20, 2014, 08:13:46 am »

I think that someone should mount a concert with Boulez's Pli selon pli as the first half and Arnold's Ninth Symphony occupying the second...

But who would buy tickets for it?
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albert
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« Reply #24 on: March 20, 2014, 11:22:33 am »

In September 2012 in my city, Torino (not a metropolis) Pierre Boulez conducted "Pli, selon, pli" (complete)  with soprano Barbara Hannigan, l'Ensemble Intercomporain and musicians from the Luzern Academy. The hall (1800 seats) was almost full; the ticket was not expensive (or part of a subscription). At the end kind applauses from almost eveybody.
Anyway I would have been glad to listen, even after the very severe Boulez, Arnold's Ninth (BTW of course completely different orchestral resources are required).
Still more glad If I had to listen a full Malcolm Arnold concert.   
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« Reply #25 on: March 20, 2014, 11:57:36 pm »

I think that someone should mount a concert with Boulez's Pli selon pli as the first half and Arnold's Ninth Symphony occupying the second...

But who would buy tickets for it?
`
I suspect Boulez would buy them all..
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shamus
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« Reply #26 on: March 21, 2014, 12:39:46 am »

Just listened to all of Arnold's symphonies again, and plan to start over soon. Worth my time and more. Jim
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« Reply #27 on: March 21, 2014, 01:17:08 am »

Just listened to all of Arnold's symphonies again, and plan to start over soon. Worth my time and more. Jim

This would be a salutary experience for anybody - I got through 5-7 this evening.

 Smiley

Arnold is one of the very few composers whose symphonies I don't resent having in duplication - Penny (1-9 on Naxos), Hickox (1-6 on Chandos), Handley (1-9 on Conifer/ Decca), Gamba (1-6 in live broadcast/ 7-9 on Chandos). I just never tire of his music, and would welcome more duplication, especially of the concertos.

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« Reply #28 on: March 21, 2014, 08:51:03 am »

In September 2012 in my city, Torino (not a metropolis) Pierre Boulez conducted "Pli, selon, pli" (complete)  with soprano Barbara Hannigan, l'Ensemble Intercomporain and musicians from the Luzern Academy. The hall (1800 seats) was almost full; the ticket was not expensive (or part of a subscription). At the end kind applauses from almost eveybody.

I don't doubt it. But the people who would come for the Boulez would be put off by the Arnold, and vice versa. Of course, for such a rare experience one might attend anyway. The times I go to a concert to hear some unfamiliar work and have to sit through the war-horses that make up the rest of the programme.
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« Reply #29 on: March 21, 2014, 11:18:16 am »

In September 2012 in my city, Torino (not a metropolis) Pierre Boulez conducted "Pli, selon, pli" (complete)  with soprano Barbara Hannigan, l'Ensemble Intercomporain and musicians from the Luzern Academy. The hall (1800 seats) was almost full; the ticket was not expensive (or part of a subscription). At the end kind applauses from almost eveybody.

I don't doubt it. But the people who would come for the Boulez would be put off by the Arnold, and vice versa.

I would go if it was some other Boulez work (I don't like Pli selon pli much) and some other Arnold symphony (the 9th isn't a particular favourite either). Some pieces that would work quite well together imo might include Feldman's Coptic Light with Vaughan Williams's 3rd, Lachenmann's Tanzsuite mit Deutschlandlied with Shostakovich's 15th and Cage Seventy-Four + Xenakis Anastenaria + Simpson 9th.
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