George Malcolm CBE, KSG (28 February 1917–10 October 1997) was an English harpsichordist, organist, pianist, composer, choir-trainer and conductor.

Malcolm's first instrument was the piano, and his first teacher was a nun who recognised his talent and recommended him to the Royal College of Music. Malcolm went on to study at Balliol College, Oxford. During the Second World War he was a bandleader.

After the war, he developed a career as a harpsichordist. Like Wanda Landowska, he favoured rather large 'revival' harpsichords with pedals, built in a modern style, that now are seen as unauthentic for Baroque music. While aspects of his interpretations may seem outdated by the standards of today's historically informed performance practice, his recordings and live performances introduced many people to the harpsichord and influenced a number of today's musicians. As well as Baroque works he played modern harpsichord repertoire including his own composition "Bach before the Mast", a humorous set of variations on The Sailor's Hornpipe in the style of Johann Sebastian Bach. Malcolm also composed for voices, a well-known piece being his Palm Sunday introit Ingrediente Domino.

Although Malcolm made occasional appearances as a pianist in chamber music, notably with the Dennis Brain Wind Ensemble, he left very few recordings in this capacity (one interesting example is the first performance of the Gordon Jacob Sextet, written for the group). But he also pursued a notable career as an organist, and choir-trainer: for 12 years (1947-1959), he was organist of Westminster Cathedral, where he developed the choir's "continental" sound which contrasts with that of Anglican choirs. Benjamin Britten's Missa Brevis was commissioned for his retirement. Malcolm was founding patron of Spode Music Week, an annual residential music school that places particular emphasis on the music of the Roman Catholic liturgy.

In the 1950s he participated in annual concerts featuring four harpsichordists, the three others being Thurston Dart, Denis Vaughan and Eileen Joyce. In 1957 this group also recorded two of Vivaldi's Concertos for Four Harpsichords, one in a Bach arrangement, with the Pro Arte Orchestra under Boris Ord. Malcolm, Dart and Joyce also recorded Bach's Concerto in C for Three Harpsichords, and all four recorded Malcolm's own Variations on a Theme of Mozart. In 1967, he appeared with Eileen Joyce, Geoffrey Parsons and Simon Preston in a 4-harpsichord concert with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields under Neville Marriner in the Royal Festival Hall.

In later life Malcolm developed a career as a conductor, forging long-standing relationships with ensembles such as the English Chamber Orchestra and the Northern Sinfonia orchestra. The pianist Andras Schiff, who left Hungary in order to study with Malcolm, was a frequent concerto soloist under his baton, and the two recorded Mozart's complete works for piano duet together on the composer's own piano. Wikipedia

George Malcolm CBE (28 February 1917–10 October 1997)

George Malcolm's first instrument was the piano. After 18 months with a gifted nun in the kindergarten, he started studies with Kathleen McWhitty at the Royal College of Music, aged seven. Following study at Oxford University, he returned to the RCM and studied with Herbert Fryer, intending a career as a pianist. The War drastically changed the direction of Malcolm's life, being appointed an RAF bandleader, organising and conducting concerts all over the country. On being demobbed he planned to resume his career. Taken with the idea of owning an antique instrument for his own pleasure at home, he bought his first harpsichord (a genuine 18th century instrument) at auction with his demob gratuity. The instrument was rare then, and very soon they were both in great demand.

George Malcolm was appointed Director of Music at Westminster Cathedral in 1949. He had a deep affinity with Catholic Church Music, and achieved great success in producing the bright "continental" sound that so impressed Britten when he wrote his "Missa Brevis" especially for the Cathedral Choir. By 1959 ever-increasing demands for concert performances caused Malcolm to resign his post at the cathedral and become conductor of the Philomusica of London as well as associate conductor of the BBC Scottish Orchestra.

Throughout his life George Malcolm continued to champion the harpsichord through concerts and recordings, mostly drawing on the large 18th century keyboard repertoire. He was also a fine exponent of more recent works and made some brilliant arrangements.
Beulah Records


GEORGE MALCOLM has been a leading figure in British musical life for many years where he holds a pre-eminent position due to his enormous ability and versatility as harpsichordist, pianist, conductor and choir trainer. lt was during his years as Master of Music at Westminster Cathedral that Benjamin Britten wrote his 'Missa Brevis' for him, and he has conducted the London Symphony Orchestra in the Decca recording of Britten's ‘Cantata Academica‘ with Jennifer Vywan, the late Sir Peter Pears, Helen Watts and Owen Brannigan.

Although he trained as a concert pianist, and still appears frequently in this role, the main part of George Malcolm‘s work is now on the harpsichord. He features at the leading British music festivals, on London's South Bank and at the Barbican Centre, and elsewhere all over the British Isles in recital and concert performances. During recent seasons he has worked frequently with the English Chamber Orchestra, the London Bach Orchestra, the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields Chamber Ensemble, and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe.

ln 1985 he also gave a series of Wigmore Hall recitals to mark the tercentenaries of Bach, Handel and Scarlatti, and appeared at the Aldeburgh and Lichfield Festivals. He is also an extremely popular artist on the Continent, particularly in Germany, Italy and Eastern Europe. He has made a number of European tours with the Northern Sinfonia and the Academy of St. Martins, and has appeared with the Israel Chamber Orchestra in Tel Aviv, the Scarlatti Orchestra in Naples and the Cologne Chamber Orchestra. ln 1985 George Malcolm performed in Finland, in Switzerland with the Zurich Chamber Orchestra at the Menuhin Festival, Gstaad. and at the Hohenems Festival.


Gordon Wheeler, Westminster Cathedral Chronicle 1956

The esteemed English harpsichordist, pianist, conductor and teacher, George (John) Malcolm, first studied the piano. He was taught for 18 months by a gifted nun in the kindergarten class at the Notre Dame Convent in Clapham, and, deciding he had a special talent, she took him along to play to Hugh Allen at the Royal College of Music. He was accepted, and at the age of seven studied piano with Kathleen McWhitty. There was no Junior department at the College in those days, and for several years he was the only child there. While attending a London day school, he continued at the College and then, having completed his time at Oxford University, he returned to take up his studies with Herbert Fryer. After attending Balliol College, in Oxford from 1934 to 1937, he completed his training at the Royal College of Music in London.

George Malcolm was on the threshold of his career as a professional pianist when the onset of war drastically changed the direction of his life. He was appointed an Royal Air Force bandleader, which involved organising and conducting concerts all over the country. After World War II, he had hoped to resume his intended career. He liked the idea of owning an antique instrument for his own pleasure at home, and he bought his first harpsichord. The instrument was rare then, and very soon George and his harpsichord were in great demand for concerts. His favourite instrument was to be built by Thomas Goff, and was known for its marvellous dynamic qualities, which George used to exciting and dramatic effect, although his brilliant harmonies and ornamentations have always annoyed purists.

George Malcolm had a distinguihed career as a harpsichord virtuoso, chamber music pianist, and conductor. While his concert career was being established, he was appointed director of Music at Westminster Cathedral (1947-1959). He had a deep affinity with Catholic church music and had enjoyed a successful period of time as choir-master in a south London church. He disliked the hooty sound so prevalent in choir-boys at that time, and was to achieve great success in producing the bright "continental" sound, which contrasts with that of Anglican choirs. This sound so impressed Benjamin Britten that he wrote his Missa Brevis especially for the Westminster Cathedral Choir. Malcolm left the Cathedral to enable him to accept the ever increasing demands on him for concert performances. He became conductor of the London Philomusica from 1962 to 1966, and Associate Conductor of the BBC Scottish Orchestra in Glasgow from 1965 to 1967, as well as continuing to play the large 18th century keyboard repertoire. He was founding patron of Spode Music Week, an annual residential Music school that places particular emphasis on the music of the Roman Catholic liturgy.In 1965 he was made Commander of the Order of the British Empire, and was ISM Distinguished Musician Award of 1996-1967.

George Malcolm was particularly associated with the Baroque revival. He was a pioneering harpsichordist, introducing many people to this instrument through his records and live performances. Like Wanda Landowska, he favoured rather large harpsichords which now are seen as inauthentic for Baroque music, although the instruments he used were more authentic than hers. However, while aspects of his performances may seem outdated, his influence is gratefully acknowledged by a number of today's musicians, e.g. András Schiff. He seems to have left posterity no sound recordings as a pianist, but he made more impact as an organist, choir-trainer and conductor. Bach-Cantatas.com

George Malcolm does not confine himself to Europe, however, and in 1980 he made an important tour of Japan, becoming the first harpsichordist to have been heard on such a scale in the East. He also visited Manila as a solo pianist with the Camerata llysy and has made frequent appearances in the U.S.A. - in 1985 enjoying great success in New York with the English Chamber Orchestra. He has toured Mexico, has directed the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, and gave chamber concerts with the Australian Wind Virtuosi and the Chilingirian Ouartet at the I985 Hong Kong Festival.

As a pianist, George Malcolm has played Mozart concertos with most of the major orchestras, and has played sonatas and other chamber music with such distinguished ensembles as the Amadeus, Juilliard and Chilingirian Quartets. He also has a Duo with the violinist Christopher Hirons. Amongst other artists with whom he has worked are Yehudi Menuhin, Julian Bream, Pierre Fournier, Wolfgang Schneiderhan, Andras Schiff and William Bennett. As a conductor, George Malcolm was associated with the English Opera Group, has appeared with most of the London orchestras and has for many years worked closely with the English Chamber Orchestra. He was Principal Conductor of the Philomusica from 1962 to 1966 and, from 1965 to 1967, Associate Conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.

George Malcolm has numerous recordings to his name and has over twenty records on issue at present. ln 1985 he featured in London Weekend Television's 'South Bank Show', which celebrated the tercentenary of Domenico Scarlatti's birth. ln Spring '87, to coincide with George Malcolm's seventieth birthday, ASV released the Handel Concerti Grossi 0p.6. which he recorded with the Northern Sinfonia.

George Malcolm has received a number of accolades. He was made a CBE in 1965, an Honorary Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford, in 1966 and a Papal Knight of the Order of Saint Gregory in 1970. ln 1974 he became a Fellow of the Royal College of Music and in 1978 he was made an Honorary D.Mus. of Sheffield University. ASV Records 1986