Malcolm Troup obituary

·3-min read

Malcolm Troup, who has died aged 91, was a distinguished pianist, musicologist and educator. He was also my predecessor as chairman of the Beethoven Piano Society of Europe.

Born in Toronto, Malcolm was the son of William Troup, a cattle farmer turned stockbroker, and Wendela (nee Seymour Conway), a graduate of the Royal Academy of Music. She was Malcolm’s first piano teacher, and he displayed remarkable early talent.

He won a scholarship to the Toronto Conservatory, where he and Glenn Gould, a close friend, both studied with Alberto Guerrero. Aged 17, he made his debut with the CBC Toronto Orchestra in Anton Rubinstein’s massive Concerto in D minor, early evidence of his fearless, restlessly exploratory temperament.

Subsequently he studied in London with Sidney Harrison (1950-52) and in Saarbrücken, Germany, with Walter Gieseking (1954-56), receiving the Harriet Cohen Commonwealth medal in 1955. During this period, he toured ceaselessly in Canada, Europe (with frequent performances in the Soviet Union) and South America.

A born performer, colourful and flamboyant, he often received standing ovations and gave many encores. On one of his trips to South America he met his future wife, Carmen Lamarca Subercasaux, a member of the Chilean nobility who joined him in London in 1961: they wed the following year at the Vatican in Rome, then settled in Islington, north London.

With his inquiring mind it was natural for Malcolm to expand into musicology and academic administration. In 1967 he was already an honorary professor at the University of Chile, then received his DPhil from York University (1968) with the topic Messiaen and the Modern Mind, leading to his most celebrated recording, Messiaen’s epic cycle Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus (1986).

Typically, Malcolm insisted on recording these fearsome pieces from memory, feeling that the performances would lack the freedom and spontaneity he sought if he had the score in front of him. His prodigious memory was still active into his 70s, ever adding new works, including ones by composers sent to Nazi extermination camps from the concentration camp at the Czech town of Terezín.

A rich list of academic and honorary appointments ensued: from 1970 he was music director at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, leaving in 1975 to set up the new music department at City University, London, with one of Britain’s first electronic music studios, and launching the first fellowship in Jewish music research.

He was master of the Worshipful Company of Musicians (1999-2000), vice-president of the European Piano Teachers’ Association, a governor of the Music Therapy Charity Trust, chairman of the Ernest Bloch Society, and co-founder in 1993 with Carola Grindea of the Beethoven Piano Society of Europe, which he chaired till 2014. To all of these roles he brought his characteristic energy, vision, commitment and brilliance, expressed in trenchant speech and writing.

Carmen died in 2011. He is survived by their daughter, Wendela, and five grandchildren, Saskia, Cosima, Damian, Natasha and Alexia.

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