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Arnold, Samuel

Arnold, Samuel

Arnold, Samuel, celebrated English composer, organist, conductor, teacher, and music scholar; b. London, Aug. 10, 1740; d. there, Oct. 22, 1802. He was a chorister at the Chapel Royal (c. 1750–58), where he studied with Gates and Nares. Arnold subsequently became closely associated with various London theaters. He began his career as harpsichordist and composer at Covent Garden in 1764, where his first dramatic score, the pasticcio The Maid of the Mill, was premiered on Jan. 31, 1765. His pantomime Harlequin Dr. Faustus was first given there on Nov. 18, 1766, as was his pasticcio Tom Jones on Jan. 14, 1769. In 1769 Arnold purchased Marylebone Gardens, where he brought out his reworking of Pergolesi’s La serva padrona as The Servant Mistress on June 16, 1770. His afterpiece The Portrait was first performed at Covent Garden on Nov.22, 1770. In 1773 his oratorio The Prodigal Son was given at the Univ. of Oxford, where he took his Doctor of Music degree that same year. In 1774 the dishonest actions of one of his employees at Marylebone Gardens forced Arnold into financial difficulties and he was forced to sell his theater. In 1777 he became music director and composer at the Little Theatre in the Haymarket, for which he wrote numerous scores over the next quarter century. Among the most notable were Lilliput (May 15, 1777), The Spanish Barber (Aug. 30, 1777), The Agreeable Surprise, or The Secret Enlarged (Sept. 4, 1781), Gretna Green (Aug. 28, 1783), Two to One (June 19, 1784), Peeping Tom (Sept. 6, 1784), Turk and No Turk (July 9, 1785), The Siege of Curzola (Aug. 12, 1786), Inkle and Yarico (Aug. 4, 1787), The Battle of Hexham (Aug. 11, 1789), The Surrender of Calais (July 30, 1791), The Mountaineers (Aug. 3, 1793), The Children in the Wood (Oct. 1, 1793), Zorinski (June 20, 1795), and Obi, or Three-Fingered Jack (July 2, 1800). Among his other works, The Shipwreck was given at Drury Lane on Dec. 10, 1796, as was The Veteran Tar on Jan. 29, 1801. In all, Arnold composed or contributed to over 70 stage works. In 1783 he became organist and composer to the Chapel Royal, and in 1793 he was made organist at Westminster Abbey. He oversaw the unfinished complete edition of Handel’s works (180 parts, 1787–97) and ed. the collection Cathedral Music (4 vols., 1790). In addition to other oratorios and church music, he wrote harpsichord pieces, choruses, and songs. Arnold was buried in Westminster Abbey.


R. Hoskins, Dr. S. A. (1740–1802): An Historical Assessment (diss., Univ. of Auckland, 1984).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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