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Malcolm Williamson (1931 - 2003)

Malcolm Williamson was born in Sydney on 21 November 1931. At the age of eleven he went to the Sydney Conservatorium to study piano, violin and French horn and later studied composition with Eugene Goossens. In 1950 he moved to London where he studied with Erwin Stein and Elisabeth Lutyens. He settled permanently in England in 1952 and quickly gained a reputation both as a composer and performer.

In his early years in Britain he worked as an organist and choirmaster before concentrating on composition. As a young composer he experimented with the twelve-tone serial technique, became interested in medieval music and, not long after his conversion to Catholicism in 1952, he discovered an affinity with the compositions and philosophy of Olivier Messiaen. Having fully immersed himself in various trends and influences of the day, his music became recognised as a truly individual voice from the mid-1950s. From 1958 he began to earn a living as a nightclub pianist and this had a major impact on his attitude to the popular music he wrote. These lighter pieces sometimes appeared simultaneously with intensely serious religious works, a juxtaposition that has occasionally baffled his critics.




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