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"Rogue Genius" Unleashed? by Paul Serotsky

Courtesy of a boardroom leak, word is out that the director of a certain music festival has had a massive change of heart. Apparently, in an unusually candid briefing, the director informed his executive committee of a radical change of policy, more or less in these words: "As you know, I have never been a great fan of Malcolm Arnold or his music. Well, last year, a soloist I know, who is an Arnold fan, bet me that I wouldn’t be able to read Meredith and Harris's hefty biography 'Malcolm Arnold - Rogue Genius' from cover to cover. Of course, I took up his challenge.

"To my great surprise, I actually found the book to be a revelation. Handing over his cash, the soloist asked me why I had staged a major celebration in honour of Ligeti's 80th. birthday, yet hadn't done the same for Arnold. When I suggested that this was because I didn't particularly like Arnold, he came back at me smartly with, 'But you don't particularly like Ligeti, either, do you?' Taken together, these two incidents gave me much pause for thought."

He continued, "I feel that I am man enough to admit when I am wrong, and so, in our coming festival season, I am going to make amends with a major celebration of Arnold's music in this, the composer's 85th. birthday year. It is my intention that we will put on a wide range of music exemplifying Arnold's enormous output. The backbone will be performances of all nine of the symphonies, spread evenly right through the festival. These will be set against works by Arnold's contemporaries, men like Alwyn and Rawsthorne, giving a seasonal theme looking at the work of 'neglected British composers' which I hope will spearhead a long overdue revival in their collective fortunes.

"To complement the symphonies we will feature a number of Arnold's concertos, along with some of his lighter pieces in our weekend concerts. I also like the idea of having a special family concert, including both 'The Song of Freedom' and 'The Return of Ulysses'. These will be performed, as originally intended, by young people.

"I would also like us to put on a Film Music night, based around the many superb Arnold scores. Our Chamber Music recitals will feature several of his solo Fantasies, piano music, and both the String Quartets. Finally, an idea that I find really attractive: in our closing concert we can do the English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish and Cornish Dances, with spectacular views of the locations on ‘big screens’ – oh, and maybe some brilliant lighting effects. It will make a really sensational climax to our festival season, and show Arnold in a new light!"

Paul Serotsky


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