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Gramophone 1950


Gramophone 1961

Performers seldom get to make their own choices for a greatest-hits collection, so the fact that guitarist and lutenist Julian Bream selected the tracks for this double disc of his most essential recordings is significant. No doubt, RCA could have picked any number of excellent and popular recordings from Bream's large catalog and produced a terrific compilation, but letting him comb through the archives permits listeners to appreciate his most personally meaningful and satisfying performances from his long career. While recordings of flashy guitar pieces by Tárrega, Turina, and Rodrigo would naturally find their place on a best-of disc, the less familiar works by William Walton, Malcolm Arnold, and Benjamin Britten -- all composed for Bream -- might have been overlooked by a less imaginative producer; the lute recordings, which never achieved the same fame as the guitar performances, might have been neglected, as well. But along with the expected tracks are Walton's intricate Five Bagatelles, the Lento from Arnold's colorful Guitar Concerto, and Britten's charming Courtly Dances from his opera Gloriana; and Bream's performance on lute with harpsichordist George Malcolm of J.S. Bach's Trio Sonata No. 1 in E flat major is a special treat. RCA's sound is well-balanced and quite even through the program, with little variance in tone or volume, despite the different recording dates, which range from 1959 to 1990. Blair Sanderson, Allmusic

There are over 300 tracks (in this 40 CD anthology) covering almost the entire history of the lute and guitar from Francesca Canova da Milano (1497-1543) to Leo Brouwer (b1939) with excursions to Spain (six discs), South America (two discs) and the Royal Courts of Europe. Personal preference might lead you to the lute recordings (solos, three albums with Peter Peers or the wonderful 1969 disc of sonatas for lute and harpsichord with the great George Malcolm) or to the many new works commissioned by or dedicated to Bream – Walton’s Five Bagatelles, for example, Malcolm Arnold’s Concerto and, most famous of all, Britten’s Nocturnal. Gramophone, Jeremy Nicholas (2013)


This is the landmark (circa early 1960's) Original London Mono (CM 9392) LP recording of George Malcolm and the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra conducted by Karl Münchinger, performing two Bach keyboard concerti. The following is an old review of the recording, circa 1964:

"At a time when so many Bach performances sound so drearily mechanical, and one begins to wonder whether one really loves or only reveres the greatest of all composers, this record comes as a salutary shock. It offers the unique experience of hearing the great D minor Harpsichord Concerto in a superlative performance by a virtuoso of the instrument for which it was written; and the effect is no less electrifying than that produced by a great piano virtuoso in the Tchaikovsky B flat minor— far more so, in fact, owing to the vastly superior quality of the music and its comparative unfamiliarity.
The concerto does quite simply need a harpsichord virtuoso to do any kind of justice to it. It is essentially a virtuoso work, and yet there is absolutely nothing in the keyboard part for a piano virtuoso, so different are the two instruments. Indeed, piano virtuosos rarely touch it; it is usually played by rather sober and solid pianists—. and mighty dull they usually make it sound.

There can be no more clinching demonstration of the absolute rightness of the harpsichord for this work (and for Bach's other keyboard concertos) than the contrast between the impeccably correct piano performance of it which I reviewed last month and this inspired harpsichord performance by George Malcolm. The regular repetitive rhythms, which plod so heavily on the piano, are lifted right off the ground by the percussive attack of the harpsichord, and can in consequence be infused with enormous dynamic tension. The broken arpeggios, which all sound so similar in the monochrome tone of the piano, become vividly contrasted on the different registers of the harpsichord, and can be further differentiated by the varied registrations— the cavernous rumbling of the sixteen-foot, the incisive ping of the normal eight-foot, the brittle tinkling of the four-foot, and the clattering brilliance of the full instrument. All these potentialities are used with superb skill and musical insight by George Malcolm, to build up performances of the two quick outer movements which are at once architecturally and emotionally thrilling; while in the central slow movement the long-spun melismatic line of the melody, which sounds so much more expressive on the harpsichord's eight-foot stop than in the wooden tone of piano cantabile, is given its true mood of passionate melancholy by means of an ultra-sensitive minimal rubato.

The orchestral contribution is fully worthy of the solo performance in its drive and precision, and in the beautiful way that Karl Miinchinger negotiates the handing over from harpsichord to orchestra and vice versa by means of subtle dynamic shadings. I feel that George Malcolm was most wise in shunning the fashionable practice of acting as conductor-soloist in the eighteenth-century way, which all too often distracts the soloist's concentration from his own task and also affects the ensemble adversely. What a work and what a performance! And what a recording too: both mono and stereo are just about as lifelike in clarity, tone and balance as can be imagined."

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Gramophone 1965

Bach: Keyboard Concerti, Malcolm, Munchinger, Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra.

STUNNING !!! GREAT GEORGE MALCOLM !!! I visited his concert in Bratislava. He played at first Jazz for piano, drums, doublebass and strings by Joseph Horowitz and then harpsichord concerto by CPE Bach. It was fantastic evening. I have unforgettable experiences. G. Malcolm was fantastic virtuoso, wonderful musician and great personage.
Ria Brezova - YouTube

Furthermore, the pedal point cadenza toward the end of the first movement, I first heard in my teens when I was first getting serious about this jazz, and I remember being breath-taken by Malcolm's passionate precision. Same in the finale. Just too perfect. It goes at a good clip, yet is just perfect enough to move the ground beneath us. What a spellbinding performance, I feel like I'm flying when I hear it again after all these years, and Malcolm aces it, like no other I've ever heard.
John Ervin - YouTube