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Last score for composer

12 November, 2020 — By John Gulliver

Sir Malcolm Arnold

THE tragic story of the last years of a composer I admired emerged this week as a battle ensues over his estate.

You may know his works – his most popular musical piece is the score for the film Bridge on the River Kwai. He was one of the top composers and apart from his orchestral works wrote scores for countless films from the 40s to the 70s.

The later years of Malcolm Arnold – he died aged 84 in 1986 – were spent grappling with alcoholism and bi-polar.

While living in Belsize Park in the late 60s he would often break down, wander the streets, and then be picked up by the police, sectioned, and admitted to the psychiatric wards at the Royal Free. This went on for some time until he moved out of Camden.

Earlier he had been made a ward of the Court of Protection, later passed into the care of a friend who died a year ago.

In his last years court battles ensued between his estranged daughter Katherine Arnold and the carer over the ownership of his archives.

Now a letter was published in The Times on Tuesday – and among its signatories is our well-known music critic Michael White – protesting against a decision by the Ministry of Justice to destroy the archives.

Michael White told me he never knew Malcolm Arnold but is a friend of his daughter and is baffled, as she is, by the Ministry’s decision.

It is completely mystifying.


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