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In memoriam: Malcolm MacDonald

By Suzanne Ryan

With great sadness, Oxford reports the passing of esteemed music author and critic Malcolm MacDonald, who died on 27 May 2014.

MacDonald was until December 2013 Editor of the modern-music journal Tempo, and reviewed regularly for BBC Music Magazine and the International Record Review. He wrote both under his given name and as Calum MacDonald (to avoid confusion with the composer also named Malcolm MacDonald).

MacDonald contributed enormously to the literature and resources on numerous late-nineteenth and twentieth-century composers, and in the community of musicians and scholars, he was a champion of many. The list of figures is long, and includes the likes of Johannes Brahms, John Foulds, Ronald Stevenson, Alan Bush, Erik Bergman, Dmitri Shostakovich, Bernard Stevens, Luigi Dallapiccola, Antal Doráti, and Edgar Varèse. Among MacDonald’s several contributions to The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Grove Opera, his article on English composer and music journalist Havergal Brian was of particular importance, and reflects a substantial body of work elsewhere published on Brian.

As part of his impressively varied list of publications, MacDonald is author of two volumes in the venerable Master Musicians series: the distinguished Brahms (Schirmer 1990, reissued in 2001 from OUP) and the indispensable Schoenberg (the first edition published with Dent in 1976, and the second edition in 2008 with OUP). In his Preface to the First Edition of Schoenberg, we find:

The most a writer may do is to place the music in perspective and give it a human context; from which, perhaps, its human content will emerge more clearly. That is what I have tried to do.

And this is what, at the very least and amidst his myriad achievements, Malcolm MacDonald has indeed done. His work will remain valuable, and his legacy vital, for generations.

Suzanne Ryan is Editor in Chief, Humanities and Executive Editor, Music at Oxford University Press in New York.

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