The Times Online and specialised music industry media are extensively reporting an embezzlement case in which managers for a top classical musician and composer are alleged to have misappropriated a claimed GBP 447 000 to finance online gambling activities at unidentified websites.
Michael and Judith Arnold, both in their seventies, had worked for Master of the Queen's Music Sir Peter Maxwell Davies (74) for over 30 years, managing his affairs. So deep was his regard and trust that the world-class composer had dedicated some of his works to the duo, and did little to oversee their activities on his behalf. That was until he discovered that his not inconsequential earnings were vanishing at an alarming rate, at one stage almost leaving him destitute and borrowing from friends. The losses and disloyalty affected his ability to work, and resulted in his initiating a civil action in the High Court which eventually led to a "substantial" civil settlement, although a criminal case is pending after a police investigation of the Arnolds' activities regarding Sir Peter’s private company, Max-Opus, one of the first classical music download sites on the internet. Sir Peter set up the service with the Arnolds in 1999 and the couple were appointed directors in 2000. Part of the civil settlement is believed to involve Sir Peter having complete ownership of the website.
Scotland Yard has confirmed that the Arnolds have been criminally charged with the theft of GBP447 000, and have been bailed to appear before West London magistrates on November 3.
Sir Peter has refused to discuss the case except to say: “I am glad this long-drawn-out affair is finally coming to a conclusion. I have made it clear to the police that I am prepared to give evidence in court if required.”
He said recently: “I was very unhappy, and I stopped writing for six weeks. But you have to move on. It was hard to cope with because I had no money, and I had to borrow GBP10 or GBP20 from this or that person on the island, just to get basic shopping. But now the royalties are coming in, which is wonderful.”
Friends of the composer told The Times that he had been through an ordeal. “The sight of one of the greatest composers of the past 200 years unable to write because of money worries was just too terrible to see,” one friend said earlier this year. “Daft as it may sound, Max had no idea he was earning so much money, or had been over the years. All he kept getting was big bills and overdrafts. But Max has never had real interest in the business side, only in creating music. He is a genius when it comes to music – an ignoramus when it comes to money.”
Sir Peter has conducted some of the world’s finest orchestras, including the BBC Philharmonic and Royal Philharmonic. The role of Master of the Queen’s Music, which dates from the 17th century, carries no fixed duties, but the holder may be asked to compose pieces for royal or state occasions. Sir Peter was appointed to the post in 2004 for a ten-year term.
Born in Manchester in 1934, Sir Peter has composed and published more than 200 works. He was knighted in 1987 and appointed Master of the Queen’s Music in 2004.
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