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B&H remembers Malcolm MacDonald (1948-2014)

(June 2014)

Boosey & Hawkes pays tribute to Malcolm MacDonald, Editor of Tempo magazine (1982-2013), who died on 27 May.

The celebrated writer on classical music, Malcolm MacDonald, who has died aged 66, worked at Boosey & Hawkes for 30 years. His first role in the offices of 295 Regent Street was as assistant to David Drew in 1972 , working on preparing issues of the respected quarterly review of new music. In the late '70s, after Drew was appointed as the head of new music publishing at Boosey & Hawkes, MacDonald progressively took over the reins of editing Tempo, first as Managing Editor and finally as full Editor from 1982.

Tempo had started in 1939 as the bi-monthly newsletter of Boosey & Hawkes in London, and with the full support of the company transformed itself into a fully-fledged independent journal, establishing itself as the premier English language journal devoted to 20th century music. As the magazine entered its new editorship, MacDonald brought twin skills – as an expert on new music, but also as an enthusiast for many byways as well as highways – so that composers of multiple styles and creative persuasions could find an active voice in the journal. With its focus on 20th century and contemporary music, Tempo was, and remains, essential reading for anyone interested in new classical music and the craft of composition.

As the magazine industry consolidated in the late 1990s and titles began to disappear, it became increasingly clear that Tempo would thrive more effectively in the company of other music journals, and in 2002 Cambridge University Press took over from Boosey & Hawkes as publisher of Tempo. MacDonald continued as editor, working full-time from his home in Stanley Downton in Gloucestershire, where he had moved with his partner Libby Valdez in 1992, rather than commuting a number of days per week to London. Over the past four years, as his health deteriorated with the onset of cancer, there was little outward sign of editorial energy flagging, but he took the decision to retire at the end of 2013, passing the Tempo baton over to Bob Gilmore.

Malcolm Macdonald was born in Nairn, Scotland in 1948, the son of teachers, and moved to Edinburgh aged five where he was educated at the Royal High School. He studied English at Downing College Cambridge, but his true passion for music took hold with his activities for the University New Music Society and he studied music at postgraduate level for a further year. He first worked in London as a tape librarian for Saga Records and then started his career as a writer on music, first for Records & Recording and The Listener. As an existing journalist for Gramophone was named Malcolm MacDonald, he adopted the first name of Calum, which he was to keep for the rest of his writing career. His interest in recorded music, first explored on LPs through his school's record society, led to a four-year stint as compiler of the Gramophone Classical Catalogue. With the launch of the BBC Music Magazine in 1992, MacDonald became a regular reviewer and alongside Erik Levi edited the magazine's Top 1000 CDs guide in 1996 and 1998.

At Boosey & Hawkes, as well as his work on Tempo, MacDonald produced catalogues of the works of Shostakovich, Dallapiccola and Doráti, and wrote regularly on the house composers, including such international figures as Gerhard, Panufnik, Markevitch and Schwertsik. Not merely a consummate writer and editor, MacDonald also had gifts as a composer, and in 1995-96 he completed the orchestration for Gerhard's Soirées de Barcelone, allowing the entire hour-long ballet to be performed for the first time. The BBC Philharmonic performed the work in a Manchester broadcast, conducted by Matthias Bamert, to mark the 50th anniversary of the BBC Third Programme, and MacDonald rightly took pride in this musical achievement.

Beyond Tempo and his reviewing work, MacDonald appeared regularly on the bookshelf and in liner notes for recordings and concert programmes, writing extensively for BBC concerts. He was an authority on composers as diverse as Brahms, Schoenberg, Varèse, John Foulds and Havergal Brian, publishing a three-volume guide to the latter's symphonies and a multi-volume collection of the composer's writings on music. MacDonald never neglected his Scottish roots, publishing an illustrated tourist guide to Edinburgh, writing on the pianist-composer Ronald Stevenson and contributing to symposia on Scottish nationalism in music.

Malcolm MacDonald is survived by his wife Libby Valdez, whom he married in 2011.

Read obituaries of Malcolm MacDonald:
> The Independent (6 June 2014)
> The Scotsman (5 June 2014)
> The Guardian (17 June 2014)

Photo: Libby Valdez

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