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Malcolm Forsyth

December 8, 1936 - July 5, 2011
born in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, composed during the Contemporary period
South African-born Malcolm Forsyth became one of the more prominent Canadian composers from the latter 20th century. He composed mostly in an accessible style, though he acknowledged another more academic side to his works. His music often employed folk elements from South Africa, as in Sketches from Natal (1970) and the First Symphony (1972). After relocating to Canada in 1968, he began absorbing North American folk styles, noticeable in such works as Atayoskewin (1984) and in his arrangement, Three Métis Songs from Saskatchewan (1975-1976). Stylistically he often exhibited dreamy and exotic moods, as in his cello concerto, Electra Rising (1995), but he was rhythmic and jazzy in such compositions as Tre Vie, for alto saxophone and orchestra (1992). His output includes concertos and orchestral works, chamber music, songs and choral music. Some of Forsyth's works, like his Piano Concerto (1974; rev. 1985) and Trumpet Concerto (1987), are gaining notice in the concert hall, and numerous Forsyth compositions are available on disc, many on the CBC label.

Malcolm Forsyth was born in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, on December 8, 1936. In his childhood he studied piano, and later took up trombone and flute. From 1963, he studied trombone at Cape Town University, where he stayed on to earn advanced degrees in composition and conducting. His teachers included South-African born composer Stanley Glasser and conductor Georg Tintner.

From 1960-1967, Forsyth played trombone in the Cape Town Symphony Orchestra. Jubilee Overture, for orchestra (1964), is among his most significant works from this period. After his 1968 move to Canada, Forsyth joined the faculty at the University of Alberta. He also played trombone in the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra from 1968, serving as principal until 1980. In addition, he played in various studio orchestras and brass ensembles during this period. Meanwhile, he turned out as his Aphorisms for Brass (1971) and Symphony No. 2 (1976). He also increasingly turned to conducting, leading the University of Alberta St. Cecilia Orchestra from 1977-1986 and the university's orchestra from 1991-2002.

Forsyth's 1995 Electra Rising: Concerto for cello and orchestra was written for his daughter, Amanda Forsyth, who premiered the work with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and later recorded it with the Edmonton Symphony for the CBC label. In 2002 Forsyth retired from teaching, and the following year was given membership to the Order of Canada. Among his later large works was the 2001 Concerto for Accordion and Orchestra. He completed and saw the premiere of a final work, A Ballad for Canada, despite suffering from pancreatic cancer. ~ Robert Cummings, Rovi
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