Symphony No. 8 (Arnold)

The Symphony No. 8, Op. 124 by Malcolm Arnold was finished in November 1978.

Naxos recording of Malcolm Arnold's Symphonies Nos 7 & 8


The work was commissioned by the Rustam K. Kermani Foundation and given its first performance on 5 May 1979 in Troy, New York, with the Albany Symphony Orchestra conducted by Julius Hegyi. It is the only Arnold symphony to have had its premiere outside the United Kingdom.

The work was written after Arnold had lived in Ireland for a few years, and it prominently features an Irish march. The march is a rare example of Arnold re-using his earlier material: it originated from his score to the film "The Reckoning" (1969).

Shortly after writing this work, Arnold lapsed into a seven-year musical silence during which he was hospitalised and treated for depression. The work seems to reflect some of the bleakness in Arnold's life at the time.


The symphony is in three movements:

I. Allegro
The movement begins with a discordant martial flourish. A simple marching tune emerges on piccolo and harp, against a disquieting backdrop of dissonant strings. This develops over the course of the movement, which ends quietly and uncertainly with an almost inaudible tam-tam stroke.

II. Andantino
An elegiac movement, which ends in a mood of hushed regret.

III. Vivace
The final movement opens with a slightly crazed upbeat character, in the vein of Arnold's lighter orchestral pieces. The string fugato section is reminiscent of the style of Shostakovich (who had died in the meantime, since the composition of Arnold's previous symphony), but this mood is contrasted by the return of the movement's opening theme in a cocktail-lounge percussive style. The symphony closes with confidence.


The symphony is scored for 2 flutes, piccolo, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, cymbals, bass drum, snare drum, tam-tam, glockenspiel, vibraphone, harp and strings.

Commercial recordingsEdit