ARNOLD: David Copperfield / The Roots of Heaven
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Foreword by Sir Malcolm Arnold
The Moscow Symphony Orchestra has given stirring performances of my music in these new recordings of The Roots of Heaven and David Copperfield.
Both films had very different subjects and I approached them each in a distinct manner. One was set in Africa and the other in Victorian England. Bill Stromberg in his conducting and John Morgan in his restoration of the scores have added lustre to my music. Whether the overture from The Roots of Heaven or the theme for Mr Micawber [from David Copperfield], they have provided the listener with colourful and enthusiastic interpretations of my scores.
I am flattered that John Morgan and Bill Stromberg have taken such an interest in my film music. To be the recipient of their skill and effort is an honour.
In the immediate post World War II period, Britain was fortunate to have a variety of talented composers working in their film industry. Among them: Richard Addinsell, Brian Easdale, John Greenwood and Clifton Parker, with occasional forays from the classical world, Sir Arthur Bliss, Alan Rawsthorne, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Sir William Walton, all of them adding artistic excellence to the films they scored.
However, two of the three most prodigious composers of this period whose uvre stretched across both film and the concert hall were William Alwyn and Benjamin Frankel. Alwyns scores for Odd Man Out (1946) and The Rocking Horse Winner (1949) and Frankels for The Seventh Veil (1945) and The Man in the White Suit (1950) were vital contributions to these films. By the early 1950s, they were joined by a third, younger composer, whose name was virtually unknown in British film and who, by the end of the decade, would become internationally respected for his musical ability. Malcolm Arnold was to become one of Britains most admired composers. From the sound stages of Shepperton Studios to the Royal Albert Hall, his skill was to encompass every musical field.
Arnolds keen sense of dramatic aptitude was ideally suited for marrying music to film. Whilst concurrently scoring films, he was also occupied writing symphonies, ballets and concert works. His ability to immerse himself in these various fields propelled him into a position where commissions came often, from both the concert hall and the film world. With his gregarious personality and joie de vivre came friendships with diverse composers and musicians: Howard Blake, Julian Bream, Adolph Deutsch, Benny Goodman, Bernard Herrmann, Alfred Newman, Humphrey Searle, John Scott and William Walton, to name but a few. From the facility of his early scores for films such as Stolen Face (1952) and The Captains Paradise (1953), his reputation grew and ultimately he would be asked by American producers to score their films.
Malcolm Henry Arnold was born into a well-to-do shoe-manufacturing family in Northampton, England in 1921. Whilst growing up, Arnolds sister exposed him to jazz and he immersed himself in this new popular music. His idol became Louis Armstrong and upon seeing him in a live performance, as a boy, he was determined that he would make the trumpet his career. Arnold was later to return a musical gift to him by composing the Fanfare for Louis, dedicated in honour of "Louis Armstrongs 70th Birthday with admiration and gratitude."
Arnold attended the Royal College of Music (fellow composer John Addison was one of his classmates), studying not only the trumpet but composition as well. He would often spend his free time playing his trumpet in jazz bands until his parents put a stop to it and on one occasion, to elevate the rigour of studying, placed fish down the barrel of the Colleges pipe organ. (Hopefully the statute of limitations has run-out on this particular offense. School pranks aside, his sense of humour came to good use in both future concert works Tam OShanter and film music The Belles of St Trinians). After leaving the Royal College, he became one of the finest trumpet players of his generation and was soon the principal trumpet for the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
After another brief period of continued study in Italy in 1947, he returned to Britain and decided to pursue a career as a composer. He had immediate success with the concert work Beckus the Dandipratt and shortly thereafter was approached by a friend to score his first film, a documentary entitled Avalanche Patrol (1947). He would branch out into feature-film scores the following year with Badgers Green. In films, Arnold was to find composing to rigid deadlines and various orchestral ensembles helpful, and this was to pay dividends in the composition and performances of his own concert works.
Arnolds typical approach toward scoring was one of enriching a given scene and not to lessen its impact by "wallpapering" the film with needless music. He felt that No Highway in the Sky (1951) needed only main and end title music and accordingly wrote only for those segments. This resulted in the most scantily scored of Arnolds films: one minute and fifteen seconds of music. The Bridge on the River Kwai had a running length of approximately 161 minutes, yet its scoring is sparse with only 34 minutes of music. Arnold favoured the often-quoted dictum, "Less is more."
He also carefully researched his film assignments that contained ethnic music, travelling to the island of Grenada to investigate Afro-Caribbean music for Island in the Sun (1957). This visit was also to assist him later in the year with his concert work, the Commonwealth Christmas Overture; surely, the only Christmas music that includes parts for marimba and steel guitar. It was also owing to his effort that the Indian national anthem was orchestrated and therefore he was ideally suited to compose the music for Nine Hours to Rama (1962), a film on the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. Arnold went to India and investigated the necessary instruments and this added to the authenticity in his score.
Dorothy Morris, Arnolds music secretary during the 1950s, commented on his relationship with film musicians: "I worked for many years in the music department of the Rank organization, and no one worked as well with the musicians as he. They adored Malcolm [and] he respected them. I have seen many conductors attempt to match the music to the film, but Malcolm was a genius at this. It appeared to come instinctively to him. I can remember that during our breaks, the musicians would sit in the canteen and talk about how extraordinary his music was. You didnt often hear that from the musicians."
"Some of them [musicians] might have a pint with their lunch, but there was a famous Czech harpist whom Malcolm used quite frequently, [and] she would never take a drink. She wanted a clear head and didnt want it to affect her playing on the recording; the music was simply too good to spoil. That was very much the sort of loyalty Malcolm inspired. My years working for him were among my happiest," recalled Morris.
A younger composer who sought-out Arnold for counsel was Howard Blake. In due course, Blake would compose the music for The Duelists and The Snowman among many others. Blake commented:
In the 1950s I lived in Brighton and Malcolms music was everywhere! All the family went to see The Sound Barrier, The Belles of St Trinians, and The Inn of the Sixth Hap