Monday, March 31, 2014

Symphony for Brass by Malcom Arnold

Sir Malcolm Arnold (left) with Denis Egan
on natural trumpets in 1946
Today we listened to Sir Malcom Arnold's Symphony for Brass as recorded by the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble. The piece was written in 1978 with the PJBE standard instrumentation of four trumpets, one horn, four trombones and one tuba. We discussed some theories of why this instrumentation came about. It may have had something to do with the fact that the PJBE originated as a brass quintet.

Arnold was born in Northampton, England in 1921 and after hearing Louis Armstrong play, he decided to learn the trumpet at age twelve. He attended the Royal College of Music and studied trumpet with Gordon Jacob. In 1957, Arnold won an Academy Award for the music to epic film The Bridge on the River Kwai.

According to Music Academy Online:
Malcolm Arnold moved to Ireland in 1972, where he reveled in the lush scenery and lively Celtic music. Here, however, his behavior became increasingly erratic and, in 1977, his second marriage collapsed and he returned to England, exhausted and unable to work for several years. Significant works eventually emerged during this unhappy period, such as the Trumpet Concerto, Symphony for Brass and the Eighth Symphony.
Oral history of Glyndebourne opera
Oral history of Glyndebourne opera

Here is a link to the book The Odyssey of the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble by Donna McDonald available at Editions BIM.

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