James Mallinson 1943 – 2018

On Friday, 24thAugust, James Mallinson, one of the of the leading record producers of the last 40 years, died suddenly after a very short illness. We have put up this site to allow those who wish to pay tribute to his life and work to do so. Please use the comment box below to post your memory or message.

On November 2nd a celebration of James’ life and work took place at LSO ST LUKES in the City of London. This is a video of the evening:

The evening included personal memories and tributes from James’ family and professional colleagues including  Bernard Haitink, Valery Gergiev, Lady Valerie Solti, Kathryn McDowell and Gareth Davies from the LSO, Thomas Ades, Joanna MacGregor, Olive Simpson and Bob Woods and Jack Renner of Telarc. It also included Bach from Joanna MacGregor, Messiaen from Joanna and violinist, Madeleine Mitchell, Mozart from Gareth Davies and an LSO flute Quartet and an extract from Beethoven’s Pastoral from Thomas Ades and the Britten Sinfonia.


James learnt his trade with Decca, whose exclusively contracted artists in the 1970s included Benjamin Britten, Luciano Pavarotti and Joan Sutherland, among many others. During his years with Decca he also recorded the first ever complete Haydn symphonies (all 104 of them) with Antal Dorati and a major series of works by 20th century composers including Messiaen, Ligeti, Cage and Maxwell Davies as well as Harrison Birtwistle and Philip Glass.

After he left to go freelance in the early 1980s he worked with all of the major record labels and with virtually every major classical artist of the late 20th century. By his own reckoning the only international name that he never actually recorded was Pierre Boulez. His recordings were highly respected, winning innumerable awards including no less than 16 Grammies.

As the recording world changed at the end of the ‘90s and into this century, James was already ahead of the curve, not only musically but technically. While he was instrumental in setting up the extremely successful orchestra-owned record labels including LSO Live, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Resound label and the Mariinski Live label with Valery Gergiev in St Petersburg, he also pioneered the use of SACD and other higher resolution recording and Surround Sound to get ever closer to the sound of a live performance.

His most recent project was an ongoing Beethoven Symphony cycle with the Britten Sinfonia and Thomas Adès.

James was a loving father to Jonathan, and a lifelong partner to Michelle. He loved them both dearly and continues to inspire them daily.

Click here for memories

Click here for James’ discography

The Times (of London) – obituary – Tim Bullamore
(The Times is subscription only but you can get two free articles if you register.)

Lives Remembered – The Times (of London) – Marita Phillips

Trinity Remembers

musicalamerica.com – Legendary Decca producer James Mallinson dies

gearslutz.com – James Mallinson  has passed suddenly

Chicago Symphony Orchestra – Remembering james Mallinson

Slipped Disc – Orchestras mourn on of the last great producers – Norman Lebrecht

Radio 3 – Breakfast with Petroc Trelawny.  Scroll forward to 43’45.

Stereophile – Remembering Record Producer James Mallinson by Jason Victor Serinus

London Symphony Orchestra – Obituary: James Mallinson

Rhinegold – obituary

The HiFi Reporter

Classic Source – James Mallinson has died – Tony Faulkner


6 thoughts on “James Mallinson 1943 – 2018

  1. Michelle and Jonny, you know how very much James means to me. He played a major role in our lives at Telarc, helped us have a presence in Europe, was there with interesting and crazy ideas, always ready for a good debate, funny, witty, warm, wise, thoughtful, spacey, artistic, brilliant- such a fast mind. And always always willing to stand up for what he believed.
    Then, after our business relationship ended, to have the lovely pleasure of remaining close friends with James, you and Jonny, staying at 5 Lawn Road, and being part of your most amazing household during my stays in London when recording or while vacationing was just the best. There are no words to say how devastating I find this loss. When I heard the news, I felt it as a physical assault. And all I can say is way too soon he is gone. Way too soon. His art, his legacy, lives on in the many hundreds of superior recordings he made, the things he taught us, and the very way he lived his life. And in Jonny. I send you all my love and my deepest sympathy for the loss of your beloved James.


  2. Impossible to express how I feel. James was many things but most importantly a dear friend—an amazing colleague, and one of the best classical producers ever.
    May your spirit soar and keep in touch with your Earthbound friends til we can all party together. Perhaps we’ll take turns on bass!


  3. So many memories working with James since 1984 when James joined the world of independents. At a rough count we collaborated on around sixty or seventy CDs’ worth of recordings. Working with a Who’s Who of artists including Sir Colin Davis, Sir Charles Mackerras, Mariss Jansons, Yevgeny Svetlanov, Yuri Temirkanov, Mstislav Rostropovich, Andre Previn, Gilbert Kaplan, Klaus Tennstedt, Lorin Maazel, Riccardo Muti, Thomas Ades, Jan Latham-Koenig – the list could go on and on.

    Such a sad loss to music recording. James’s passion for technological developments in audio recording was remarkable and very constructive. I have happy memories of auditioning different digital audio technologies and microphones in various control-rooms while we had the luxury of open microphones while orchestras were rehearsing – few have had such opportunities.

    Thank you, James. You will be missed – a lot.


  4. I first met James in the early 1970’s when I would regularly “hang out” at London Decca recording sessions with the Cleveland Orchestra. That was several years pre Telarc. As things eventually progressed into Telarc, James was invited to visit our modest Telarc office and the beginning of a very long professional and personal relationship was started. When James went free-lance, he invited me and my Telarc partner, Bob Woods, to London to spend a week sharing with us how a “real” classical label operated, especially with regard to core catalog. I am eternally grateful to James for his generosity during those long days, and especially for the contacts with artists he helped establish. James was extremely insightful with regards to many aspects of a proper classical record business. Boy, what a mind! Shortly after that historic week in the lovely drawing room in the residence he shared with his beloved Michelle, Telarc was, thanks mostly to James, off and running in competition with the “big boys” of the business. And, once we got up a head of steam, James and I became the European team for Telarc. What wonderful recording adventures we had in England, Scotland, Wales, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Venice, Prague, Vienna, Berlin, and points beyond. And always with James in full command. In addition to being a great friend, he was also a wonderful mentor, sharing tips learned from his previous experiences, especially having to do with recording opera. I dare say that Telarc might have been a very different company had it not been for his influence. Thank you, James!! Barbara and I have many cherished memories of our times with James, not only on recording projects, but also as guests in the lovely home mentioned earlier where we were always made to feel like one of the family. And, we had the extra bonus of watching dear son Jonny grow up. James, we are eternally grateful for all you shared, especially the knowledge, friendship, and great adventures! We are sure you are now on your latest adventure! Sail on!


  5. I first met James in Trinity College Dublin where he took care of all of our recordings for College Singers and TCD Choral Society and became a very dear friend. When I was upset by an Irish Times review of a Mozart C Minor Mass and decided to take the critic to task in writing, James was on hand to advise against getting carried away, and as a result my argument with Charles Acton about ornamentation turned into a friendship, and James’s credentials for keeping things running smoothly were already in evidence. I was thrilled that later on in my career with Swingle II James produced an album of Berio with us for Decca: ‘Cries of London’ and ‘A-Ronne’ – and again had the assembled forces eating out of his hand. He and Michelle featured very prominently in my early days in London but sadly we lost touch in later years, and met quite by accident when I was heading for a recording session at Air Lyndhurst and James was teaching Jonny how to ride a bicycle on the hill near the studio. We made the usual promises to stay in touch…and failed. I am devastated for Michelle and Jonny – and David, who starred in a TV series called ‘The One Game’ for which my group provided the music, and I never remembered to tell Jamie that! I hope it will be possible to be part of the Memorial tribute. Such happy memories of Trinity Dublin, walks in the Wicklow hills, the flat in Phillimore Gardens, and a charming and talented friend.


  6. As I sit here listening to Haydn symphonies he produced, I think back to the acquisition of my first hi-fi. I asked James for some advice, and being him, he went the extra miles and bought what I needed within the budget I had given him. He then set it all up for me, explaining as he worked. A man full of kindness and consideration for others. I still enjoy the Wharfdale speakers to this day.
    His family home at the time when we were all still at Trinity played host to SIngers, our a capella choir in TCD, who used to meet up for a week in Summer to rehearse and give a concert at the end of the week. Very brave of his parents to trust us!
    He has left a recording legacy that will ensure he will never be forgotten.


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