Magazine article Gramophone

John McCabe

Magazine article Gramophone

John McCabe

Article excerpt


Composer and pianist

Born April 21, 1939

Died February 13, 2015

John McCabe was one of the UK's most prolific composers and a fine pianist. He died, aged 75, following a long battle with a brain tumour. Born in Liverpool he attended the Liverpool Institute (alongside fellow pupils, George Harrison and Paul McCartney), before attending Manchester University and the Royal Manchester College (now the Royal Northern College of Music) where he studied piano and composition. He then spent a year in Munich working with Harald Genzmer and others.

A prolific composer from his childhood (he'd written 13 symphonies before the age of 11!), McCabe quickly established himself and received some high-profile performances soon after concluding his studies. His First Violin Concerto (1959), Variations on a Theme of Hartmann (1964) and First Symphony (1965) were all performed by the Halle Orchestra. His music was later taken up by conductors of the stature of Sir Georg Solti, Andre Previn and Bernard Haitink.

During the 1960s and '70s he was also busy as a pianist and recorded American songs with Marni Nixon, the complete Nielsen piano music and complete Haydn keyboard sonatas; as Gramophone commented in December 1995, 'In addition to being a fine pianist, McCabe is also an accomplished composer, and the special qualities he brings to his performances benefit from his "insider's" awareness of musical content, pursuing the structural argument in these pieces with the acute perceptions of a composer's ear. …

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