In the music of English composer Malcolm Arnold you are just as likely to hear snatches of folk song as echoes of Haydn, traces of sambas, rumbas and other dances, snippets of jazz and popular tunes, or even occasional references to the avantgarde style that was in vogue for much of his life. Although Arnold has often been criticised for his failure to fully explore this style, the accessibility of his music has ensured its lasting popularity.
As well as writing orchestral and chamber music, Arnold also wrote music for a number of films, and in 1958 his work on The Bridge on the River Kwai earned him an Oscar. This Divertimento for flute, oboe and clarinet has also been used as the score for a Trade Test Colour Film, where it accompanies a set of visual images exploring the beauty and fluidity of oil moving under a microscope.
Arnold began his musical career as a trumpeter. He was Principal Trumpet with the London Philharmonic when, in his late twenties, he began to focus solely on composition. Many of his 22 chamber works incorporate slightly unusual combinations of instruments as they were written specifically for his friends.
The Divertimento’s six short movements showcase the composer’s skills as he effortlessly presents a series of succinct impressions. Despite their diversity, the works are closely connected, creating a unified whole.