There were many worlds in George Malcolm’s (1917–1997) universe – organist, harpsichordist, pianist, composer, choral director and conductor – and this one demonstrates his unique skill as a solo performer who, throughout his career, more than any other individual defined the harpsichord’s identity in England. After World War II Malcolm became the most famous English harpsichordist of his day, with a brilliant technique, superb musicianship and an idiosyncratically modern approach to playing which, for his audiences, came to exemplify the very nature of the instrument itself. In celebration of the centenary of his birth (28 February 1917).
The present release explores George Malcolm’s work from the 1960s as soloist with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields in concertos by Carl Philipp Emanuel, Johann Christian Bach and Thomas Arne. In addition to the concertos there are also samples of Malcolm’s brilliant solo playing, including the F-major Sonata by Arne (as close to Scarlatti as an English composer ever came) and an exotic set of variations on ‘Les Folies d’Espagne’ by C.P.E. Bach. His brilliant, mercurial style is well suited to the younger generation Bachs, so different in outlook from their famous father and his dense, contrapuntal language. These recordings of the solo works and the J.C. Bach concerto were made using a large two-manual Goble harpsichord, while the familiar sound of the Thomas Goff instrument is heard in the concertos by C.P.E. Bach and Arne.
Notes are by Peter Watchorn, an Australian-born, US-based harpsichordist, one of whose teachers, Harold Lobb, was also an associate of Malcolm.
‘a stimulating record … splendidly recorded. The brilliance of both composers is most effectively conveyed and the wildness of some of the modulations and the mercurial quality of the faster movements of both the Bach symphony and concerto are arresting’ (Arne, C.P.E. Bach) Gramophone, November 1968
‘George Malcolm plays [the C.P.E. Bach concerto] with his usual astonishing expertise, and he is also superb in the variations on “La folia” by the same composer. Much of the credit in this excellent disc must be given to the string playing by Neville Marriner and his players … the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields sound [is] marvellously alive and buoyant … Argo are to be warmly congratulated’ (Arne, C.P.E. Bach) Gramophone, July 1968
‘[the J.C. Bach Concerto] is splendidly played here, with strong rhythms and plenty of nervous vitality … the recording is excellent.’ (J.C. Bach) Gramophone, October 1969