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Mark Langham


From 'Music' Edward Heath

The famous harpsichordist and conductor, George Malcolm, CBE used to travel to Hengrave Hall in Suffolk for the Spode House Easter Music Week by simply hailing a taxi outside his home in Wimbledon and having it drive him all the way to Suffolk. Fortunately he never claimed expenses. The Tablet

My next teacher was Roger Pugh, pupil of George Malcom and assistant organist at Westminster Cathedral at the time. I met him in London after a srvice he played at St. james, Spanish Place, and when he later turned up in Oxford with George (for the recording of Haendel's Organ Concertos in Merton Chapel with Neville Mariner)it was agreed that I shoud take some lessons with him. So there came into existence a parenthesis in my Oxford training - taking lessons in London and playing at Westminster Cathedral. This was enormously exciting, being tested as organ student by playing during liturgies there! Roger was the opposite of Colin Mawby: non-systematic, charismatic, a minor genius, an improviser of enormous talents. Never have I heard the organ at the cathedral played as well as when Roger played it. The Willis organ and Roger submerged themselves in each other - they emerged as one person, unlike anything I have ever heared before. But the London experiences did not take place on a regular basis, alas, Roger was too busy for that to be possible. Accordingly I had to continue with Colin in Oxord, the two masters beeing complementory rather that rival intitutions in my life. We did have lessons in Christ Church occationally, on the old father Willis Organ that later has been replaced by a modern Rieger organ, this happened before Simon Preston left Oxford. All in all, the years in Oxford were perhaps the happiest in my life, not at least thanks to Colin.
Aage Hauken

Britten's Missa Brevis is a remarkable piece, written in 1959 to mark the retirement of George Malcolm, director of Westminster Cathedral Choir. Britten was a long-time admirer of the continental, full-bodied sound that Malcolm had cultivated in the Westminster choristers, and the Missa Brevis provides ample opportunity to showcase the impressive abilities of Cathedral trebles.

It opens with a commanding Kyrie and dance-like, syllabic Gloria, which - despite its vital rhythms and some almost jazz-like chordal progressions - is actually based on medieval plainsong. At the core of the work is the Sanctus, which opens with a full twelve-note row presented by three cleverly overlapping voice parts, highlighting Britten's growing interest in serialism at the time. In the Benedictus Britten takes the traditional approach in his choice to use soloists, but the staccato word-setting is very unusual.

The Agnus Dei is perhaps the most extraordinary movement of all, with its menacing organ pedal ostinato and dissonant interjections from the manuals; the melodic phrases too are chromatic and punctuated by ominous rests. In some ways almost prefiguring the style of the War Requiem, this movement provides a contrast with many composers' preference for soothing Agnus Dei settings. The abrupt unison phrases and return of staccato writing at the text “miserere nobis” (“have mercy upon us”) enhance the impression of a fearful and urgent plea to God, bringing Britten's mass for trebles to a dark and highly unsettling conclusion. Lammas Records

 At the time of the first production of Midsummer Night’s Dream, the now legendary soprano Joan Suther­land had just set the oper­atic world on its ear with her brilliant performance in the title role of Donizetti’s Lucia at Covent Garden. Peter Pears, who was singing Flute/Thisbe at the pre­mière, did a wicked imitation of Sutherland’s Lucia mad scene. George Malcolm, who conducted the second performance (Britten conducted the première), claimed Pears was so funny “I could hardly keep my place in the score for laughing.” Paul Thomason

After the 1951 German trip the Dennis Brain Wind Quintet was joined by Wilfrid Parry, who now replaced George Malcolm as their regular pianist and accompanist. George had found it increasingly difficult to accomodate all his other musical activities to suit the Quintet's schedules: he nevertheless returned several times later to play with them. Wilfrid Parry had been Dennis's personal accompanist for recitals since 1948.

The last day of April 1956 saw Dennis back at the Wigmore Hall. At the concert Dennis played York Bowen’s Sonata which Bowen, who played the piano part, had written for Aubrey in 1938. The remaining works, a modern quartet by Ghedini, a Partita for wind by Denis Matthews and Dennis’s own arrangement for wind quartet of Mozart’s F minor Fantasia, were all in birthday vein and of birthday standard. It was appropriate that Wilfrid Parry and George Malcolm, the pianists with whom the Ensemble had been associated, should have taken part on this occasion, assisting as accompanists. Stephen J Pettitt

An eminent pianist colleague of mine recently reprimanded me for my “abstinence”. His argument was that all the great pianists of the past have played Bach with lots of pedal and we must follow their example. To me this reasoning is not very convincing. The late George Malcolm, a great musician, best known as a harpsichordist, taught me to play Bach without pedal and to enjoy the delights of purity.

Once a successful young virtuoso pianist came to him asking if he could play for him Bach’s D-major toccata. Malcolm agreed, the young man took his place at the keyboard, put his right foot on the pedal, raised his arms, and here Malcolm suddenly exclaimed:”Stop!”. “But I haven’t played a note yet!” said the victim. “No, but you were just about going to". Andras Schiff


The eminent scholar and keyboard player George Malcolm described Britten the pianist as instinctive rather than scientific – a distinction that perhaps applies equally well to his music. Music Preserved

From 'Dennis Brain: A Life in Music' - Gamble\Lynch (2011)

On October 10th Manoug Parikian and George Malcolm gave the first of five sonata recitals, at which the violin sonatas of Mozart and Beethoven are to be played. These concerts are being given in the Recital Room at the Festival Hall, a rather unsatisfactory room that looks as though it had been designed as a restaurant rather than a concert-hall. Hearing is erratic, too, though I had a good enough place on this occasion to enjoy George Malcolm's wonderfully agile and accurate piano-playing. He is inclined to under-statement, certainly, as Beethoven's Op. 96 showed, but he is an unmistakeable musical 'character' as well as a fine technician. Manoug Parikian's position. as leader of the Philharmonia Orchestra is a guarantee of his technical skill and his musicianship; but, as before at a solo recital, I found his interpretation disappointingly colourless and an unexpected note of hesitancy in his playing.
Martin Cooper, The Spectator (1953)


Jennifer Vyvyian was in the first recording of Cantata Academica, conducted by GM. Although that doesn’t seem to have been a happy experience. Her diary for 17 Mar 1961 reads: ‘record Ben’s new cantata for Oiseau Lyre for 25gns. No one seemed particularly grateful. Owen [Brannigan], Helen [Watts] and I went and drank gin to cheer ourselves up’.

Harpsichordist Gerald Gifford writes: More years ago than I care to remember I won the RCM's harpsichord competition, which George adjudicated. We weren't given the adjudicator's written remarks or notes, though I did manage to inveigle sight of them through the kindness of the Registrar's Secretary. George was clearly amused by my initials and had memorably commented I had 'clearly come from a different stable to the rest'!

The organist Nicholas Kynaston recalls that when George was preparing to record the complete Rameau keyboard works he went to France to consult a renowned Rameau expert on details of ornamentation. The advice given to George was not to prepare or practice ornamentation but just to improvise whatever came to him at the time!

George's relations with the Cathedral authorities were never easy, most notably with the then administrator, Monsignor Collingswood. By the end of George's tenure they were only corresponding by mail! One day George found in a bookshop "Courtesy For Clerics", which, as he gleefully related to Nicholas Kynaston, he sent to Collingswood with great satisfaction.

Mary Potts told me that he (Thurston Dart) had said that he knew he would die young, and consequently needed to be very productive. And, indeed, aged 49, he died of stomach cancer; midway through a recording of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields. Sir Neville Marriner reports his demise in the booklet which accompanied the set:

We recorded Brandenburg Concerto No. 3  on January 30, 1971. Bob [Robert Thurston Dart] looked grey and tired. On Monday he did not make the frequent journeys with us to the control room. On Tuesday he had a mattress by the harpsichord so that he could rest between ‘takes’. He played the continuo for the first movements of Concertos 2 and 4, and for the serene Adagio [from a Sonata in G, BWV 1021] used for the slow movement for No. 3. I put him into the car which took him to the clinic at 5.30 P.M. and saw him no more.

His place in the 5th Brandenburg was taken by George Malcolm and the remaining continuo was split between Raymond Leppard and Colin Tilney (a student of Mary Potts). Although Dart had already recorded this concerto with the Philomusica – complete with a registered crescendo in the first movement cadenza! – it would have been interesting to see how his views had changed, more than 10 years later. 


From Semibrevity.com

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From Anthony Hopkins "Beating Time" (1982)