Wednesday, September 27, 2006


By Hadleyblogger Drew

Two passings I thought should be noted this week:

Sir Malcolm Arnold, the British composer and conductor, died on Saturday at 84. Most people in this country might remember him (if at all) as the Academy Award-winning composer of the score for The Bridge on the River Kwai, but there was a lot more to him than that. As the Telegraph obit points out, he came along at a time when the in-thing was atonal music in the fashion of Schoenberg. The lush sounds of a Vaughan Williams were already becoming "old fashioned," and Arnold risked being labeled a lightweight with his "jolly," "bright" music. But there was even more to this varied musician than that:

He admitted once in an interview that the major influences on him had been Berlioz, Mahler, Sibelius, Bartók and jazz (he wrote a clarinet concerto for Benny Goodman). These adumbrate a style in which primary colours predominate, with added harmonic complexity and, most of all, a profound knowledge and understanding of the orchestra, deriving from his years as an orchestral player.

Arnold endured a difficult, perhaps a typical, artist's life. according to the New York Times: "a diagnosis of schizophrenia in his early 20’s; heavy living, heavy drinking; and mental breakdowns so devastating he was institutionalized several times and had a range of treatments that may or may not have included a lobotomy." For the last few years he was under the care of a full-time caregiver. It was a harsh toll to pay for art, perhaps, but he leaves us much to remember him by: nine symphonies, seven ballets, concertos, and a huge range of music for chamber ensembles, chorus, brass band and more.


And then the is the hall-of-fame golfer Byron Nelson. They called him "Lord Byron," this man who died in his native Texas yesterday at the age of 94. But Byron Nelson was as American as they came. He didn't have the steely aura of Hogan perhaps, or the flair of Snead - two of his principal rivals. He had enough, though.

He was a modest man - "gentle", "grace", and "style" are the words most often associated with him. He was reluctant to talk about his accomplishments, but he left a bagful of records to speak for his place in history: the staggering season of 1945 when he won 11 straight tournaments and 18 overall. He finished in the money in 113 consecutive events. He won 54 PGA Tour events overall, including the Masters in 1937, the 1939 U.S. Open and the PGA Championships in 1940 and 1945.

The shadow that Tiger Woods casts over golf today is an enormous one, and most of the talk surrounds Woods chasing Jack Nicklaus' record of 20 major championships (including, as I do, the two U.S. Amateurs that Nicklaus won). But every few years, when Tiger goes on a tear as he did this year, you'll hear discussion about Nelson's consecutive-victories record. It seems at times inevitable that he'll catch the Golden Bear; perhaps, although I think it's more unlikely, he'll match or surpass Nelson's record as well. But there's one legacy Tiger probably won't surpass, and in that he won't be alone, nor should he be ashamed. For there are few in golf, or anywhere for that matter, who can match the legend of Nelson the man.

Byron Nelson once said, "I want to be remembered as a good man and a Christian man. That's all that really matters." Indeed.

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