Photograph courtesy of the LSO.
3rd October – from Bill Somerville Large, recording engineer, Dublin
I can barely remember a time in TCD (Trinity College, Dublin) that I didn’t know James. We shared the same interest in music, recording and enjoying TCD life and I remember James recording various concerts, gigs and the like and even some jazz in our house at Vallombrosa with the dining room as the control room, cables across the hall into the drawing room which doubled a the recording studio, and my Mum putting up with it all with great patience!
As I recall, one of the first jobs James had was recording sponsored radio programmes in ACT studios in Dublin – and I’m not sure that it lasted very long!
When I moved to London, James very kindly offered to take me in, sharing a flat in Chester Square and making me feel welcome there. When the boiler burst and the flat was flooded, your mother was good enough to allow me to take up residence in her granny flat until Phillimore Gardens was ready.
I spent many happy years in Phillimore Gardens with James and yourself and you were both very tolerant of me.
James came to Dublin on a number of occasions during the 1970s and 80s to produce recordings for NIRC (New Irish Recording Company) and Claddagh with James Galway, the RTE symphony orchestra, Bernadette Greevy, John O’Conor, the New Irish Chamber Orchestra and many others. I learnt so much from him on those recording sessions, knowledge he was glad to share, which stayed with me throughout my recording career.
I can remember asking James’ advice on a project I was asked to record and produce about twenty years ago – I had problems seeing the best way to approach the job but after a chat with James, it became easy, was successful, selling in Ireland in lorry-loads.
I recall James telling me about a recording which he was doing in a church which was below a Heathrow flight path and each time they were ready to go for a take, a plane flew over making it impossible to record. He called Heathrow, managed to get through to the control tower, explained the problem, saying that he was recording Leopold Stokowski (he wasn’t!!) and the voice at the other end said “Stokie – I love his work”. No more problems from aircraft noise on that recording session…!
I also recall, when recording the complete Piano Concertos by John Field with John O’Conor in the early 1980s, that when James arrived at the recording venue, there was a full size grand piano for John to play. After listening in the control room for a little while, James insisted that the sound of the piano was too big for the integrity of the music and was swamping the orchestra… He wasn’t prepared to continue with the recording until a smaller piano was made available. After some searching, a privately owned Steinway model B was located and brought to the recording venue. The balance between piano and orchestra was restored, the session completed and a highly rated set of LPs (Later reissued as CDs) resulted.
It’s easy to see why there are so many fine tributes to James; he had time for everybody, artists and recording engineers alike, he was never fazed by ‘The good and the great’ with whom he worked – on the contrary, he had that special ability to make them feel comfortable while guiding them to achieve the best possible result.
You and Jonathan will miss him terribly and our thoughts are very much with you while you adjust to this immeasurable loss in your life.
30th September – from Dr Ph. Michael Haas, Universität für Musik und Darstellende Kunst, Wien
I joined Decca in 1978 and James was a wonderful colleague. Decca was at the time a seriously dysfunctional company with seriously dysfunctional executives in charge, yet James rose above the envy and malevolence with enormous dignity and grace. He was a model of integrity and my memories of him defending seemingly impossible artists in order to achieve the best results left a lasting impression. He was able to see beyond the standard lines drawn by institutions and recognise genuine talent. His ability to communicate with a wide variety of people while remaining respectful and polite, yet never veering into hypocrisy singled him out from many other colleagues in the music business.
I was profoundly saddened to hear of his death as he was more than just a recording producer. He was a model of tolerance and integrity. His stand against provincial nationalism and his personal inquisitiveness in other countries and places must have been unique among recording producers. I recall him learning Czech in order to record the Janacek operas – he already spoke fluent German, Italian and French – much of it self-taught. It was little wonder that the second rate powers who ran Decca should have seen him as a threat. Ultimately, his departure may have been the best thing for him. It was surely a loss for Decca. He had already won more prizes and awards than anyone else in the business.
I’m very sorry that I can’t join you, but wish you a joyful occasion and memorable event.
26th September – From Tom Ogren, Allergen Free Gardening, California
Oh, I’m just seeing this now…have been off in Baja, Mexico fishing for the past two months. James, he was a wonderful fellow! I am so saddened to hear that he’s died. I feel so lucky to have sat around your warm and cozy kitchen table with you and James, drinking cups of his special hand crafted coffee. I’ll miss his warm smile, the way he put things in his own way, his wry sense of humor.
My condolences to you, Michele…you must miss him so much. Much love to you.
14th September – from Vladimir Ryabenko, Mariinsky, St Petersburg
My sincere condolences. I was told about this tragedy by Jonathan Stokes and I am still in shock. James was everything for me – I was very happy working with him. Our relationship was not just as a producer and engineer; I saw him as a great friend and teacher.
Every time I came to London I looked forward to meeting him with great pleasure. For me he was part of the English culture as a producer and an engineer. We talked about a lot, not only about music; I learned so much from him.
For me James was a whole layer of sound recording. I learned his peace and wisdom. I will miss him as if part of my soul has been torn off and discarded.
11th September – from Marita Phillips
I met James only this year and how incredibly fortunate I was that he agreed to take on the challenge of filming and recording Konstantin Boyarsky and my new opera “Pushkin” at Grange Park Opera. Particularly as he apparently said “Trying to record opera on an opera house stage is impossible”… singers “never in the right place”, “crashes” and “bangs”, microphones not where they need to be. This was indeed the case with us. Restricted to two microphones under the stage with singers and a Russian chorus of 40 “rushing all over the place”, he and his engineer colleague (Tony Faulkner) achieved an impossibly good result without a smidgin of fuss.
His knowledge and experience were beyond question but the privilege for me was witnessing his deep and ageless enthusiasm. He asked the Russian company if he could record it next year when it is performed in Moscow so he could do it justice. Recording was not a job, it was his passion. I am profoundly grateful to him.
9th September – From Benjamin Zander in an email to Elaine Martone
This man brought us together and opened a world for me. I am forever ins debt. The ripples of his passion, perception and love know no end. Please convey to his family my sorrow and gratitude.
7th September – from Kit Boot (née Musgrave)
As I sit here listening to Haydn symphonies he produced, I think back to the acquisition of my first hi-fi the we were both at Trinity College, Dublin. 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.
5th September – from David Butcher, Chief Executive and Artistic Director, Britten Sinfonia
We are all shocked and heartbroken here at Britten Sinfonia to hear the terribly sad news about the untimely death of recording producer James Mallinson, and all our thoughts are with his Michelle, Jonathan and the family at this time.
He was a legend and working with him, most recently on our Beethoven Symphony Cycle with Thomas Adès, where his advice and experience has been central to this project, has been a complete pleasure. At this terribly sad time, it is heartening to have his recent edits of Symphonies 4, 5 and 6 which he was so happy with and, when released, will join the vast list of stellar recordings by one of the greatest record producers.
5th September – from Victoria Wareham, James’ neice. (Victoria is a paediatric intensive care nurse and she and her husband lived in the basement of the house for several years.)
My sweet Uncle James,
I’m embarrassed to say it’s not been until the past week that I’ve fully understood just what an incredible impact you had on the music world. I don’t just mean winning the odd couple of grammies. I mean just how much everyone respected you and enjoyed working with you. The words I’ve read over the past few weeks have made me just so proud of you and I’m sorry I never said it to you.
I know – I am writing to you as ‘my sweet uncle James’ and I can already feel your frown forming and a bemused look on your face, ‘Why on earth are you referring to me as sweet?’
Well you are the sweet man who not only replaced the broken lock on our door, but you bought two just to make sure we were safe.
You are the sweet man who helped fix our internet connection. Sure – we had lost it because you had been having a fiddle, but you fixed, then checked, then improved it and dedicated half a busy day for us.
You are the sweet man who always checked that the music wasn’t keeping me awake when I was on night shifts. Little did you know it was a comfort to listen to.
You are the sweet man who instead of just replying ‘no I don’t know’ to a music email conversation we had, researched for me and sent me links to help.
You are the sweet man who changed conversations to talk about the NHS and medicine so that I would be involved and included in discussions.
You are the sweet man who took the time to give us amazing recommendations for our visit to St Petersburg which also landed us in the weirdest little Irish pub.
You will be sorely missed Uncle James. But any time I hear classical music I’ll think of you. Any time I see gaffer tape, I’ll think of you. Any mention of Brexit, of course I’ll think of you. Any person named Giorgio sipping a coffee, I’ll think of you….. And with every glass of red wine, I’ll raise a toast and think of you, my sweet uncle James.
4th September – From Olive Simpson, soprano
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 for his brother, 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.
3rd September – From Jack Renner, Telarc
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!
2nd September – From Tony Faulkner, Green Room Productions
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.
30th August – in an email from Petroc Trelawny, 3 Breakfast
Thinking of you all at this time. What an extraordinary life he had. I doubt a day goes by when we don’t play one of his recordings.
30th August – From Elaine Martone, Telarc
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.
30th August – From Bob Woods, Telarc
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 till we can all party together. Perhaps we’ll take turns on bass!
29th August – From Kathryn McDowell, Managing Director of the London Symphony Orchestra
We are all so very sorry to hear this news, but thank you so much for telling us and for explaining what is almost inexplicable for a man who seemed so full of life and energy. We will let the orchestra know at sessions this morning.
James was an outstandingly talented producer, with an extraordinary pair of ears, and an ability to get the best out of artists in recording. His string of Grammies and special awards throughout his career bear testament to that, and he was at the forefront of the recording world as it evolved. James was always ahead of the game in his own thinking, and that enabled him to grasp the opportunities as they arose. LSO Live would be much the poorer without his input, as he brought his vast experience to our fledgling label and we shall always be indebted to him for that.
29th August – From Thomas Adès, composer and conductor
I’m so shocked and sorry to hear this appalling news. It is hard to believe, he was always so vital. Such an terrible, frightening thing to happen.
With the awful suddenness, it’s a small mercy, if one dares talk about mercies at such a time, that he was able to do the work on our Beethoven project – every aspect of which hinged on James, both in the hall and in the studio. Those recordings, when they’re released, will owe everything to James’s genius: his patience and kindness at the concerts and rehearsals, his great musical sensibility and endless knowledge, boundless experience and incomparable ear.
He was, it hardly needs saying, one of the great producers. I was already aware of my luck in working with him; I’m all the more sadly conscious of it now.
29th August – From Professor Joanna MacGregor OBE FRAM
David phoned me today with the very sad, sudden news about James. I send you all my thoughts, love and best wishes – what a terrible shock for you both. I hope he didn’t suffer too much at the end, and how wonderful you were there to look after him.
I need hardly tell you that James was a huge, pivotal figure in my life: he taught me how to record music, edit it, and how to listen. He also had a fabulous sense of humour and drive, and enjoyed all the mad ideas I came up with. I simply couldn’t have achieved any of these things without him: he was generous, kind and immensely classy and knowledgable. I’m so grateful to have had his guidance and influence in my life. I was immeasurably enriched, and inspired.