Geoffrey Douglas Madge, pianist

Geoffrey Douglas Madge (© Geoffrey Douglas Madge)
© Geoffrey Douglas Madge

Geoffrey Douglas Madge was born in Adelaide (Australia), and had his first piano lessons at the age of eight. After hearing the great pianist Benno Moiseiwitsch he decided to continue his piano studies with Clemens Leski at the Elder Conservatorium in Adelaide. During this period he was actively busy as a composer, writing string quartets, songs and works for piano solo. At an early stage he developed an interest in unjustifiably neglected composers and this became one of his main enterprises. He toured Australia for 3 years with a piano trio. Then, in 1963, after winning first prize in the ABC piano competition in Sydney, he went to Europe to study with Eduardo del Pueyo in Brussels and Geza Anda in Luzern. Following this he gave successful debut concerts in London, Cologne, Budapest and Amsterdam. He settled in Holland upon his appointment as professor of piano at the Royal Conservatorium in The Hague.

He started investigating the music of the Russian composers around the revolution years and after a thorough research in libraries and archives he brought many forgotten works from Mossolov, Lourié, Roslavetz, Wyschnegradsky and many others back to the attention of the public.

After arriving in Europe he was first discovered by Iannis Xenakis. Madge’s first meeting with the celebrated composer was in 1970 in London, prior to his performance of Herma, part of his debut concert programme at Wigmore Hall. Following this meeting many Xenakis performances followed under the supervision of the composer: his complete piano solo works, ensemble works and both concertos. One of the highlights in Geoffrey Madge’s cooperation with Xenakis was his very successful contribution to the Xenakis Festival in 1975 in Athens with Herma, Evryali and Synaphaï. In that year the new Greek government, replacing the facist regime of the colonels, decided to celebrate the new freedom by honouring Iannis Xenakis with an all-Xenakis Festival in the Herodus Atticus Theatre. In 1975 Decca recorded for LP the first piano concerto Synaphaï – connexities for piano and orchestra with the New Philharmonia Orchestra under Elgar Howarth and Geoffrey Madge as soloist. After this recording he gave many performances of this work with conductors like Michel Tabachnik, David Porcelijn, Cristóbal Halfter and others. Since then many Xenakis performances have followed of which Eonta, for piano and 5 brass players, is one of the most popular, hair-raising compositions.

Geoffrey Madge became well-known worldwide through his integral performances of the Opus Clavicembalisticum by Kaikhosru Sorabji. He was the first and only to get permission from the composer to perform the work. Since the first complete performance of Opus Clavicembalisticum in the Holland Festival (Utrecht) on 11/06/82 more performances of the complete, almost 4 hours, work have followed in Chicago, Bonn, Montreal, Paris and the last one in Berlin (Berliner Festspiele) on 12/03/02. The release of the 5 CD production of the Chicago performance, recorded by WFMT-FM Chicago and produced by BIS, was a great success.

Madge composed a considerable amount of music, including string quartets, songs, works for piano solo, a ballet Monkeys in a cage (premièred in the Sydney Opera House in 1977) and a piano concerto (premièred in Amsterdam in 1985).

Geoffrey Madge has been researching and studying the work of pianist-composer Ferruccio Busoni for many years and in 1988 Philips issued his anthology of Busoni’s solo piano works on 6 CDs. This production was an international success and received many prizes. His performances of the monumental Busoni Piano Concerto in a number of international festivals have received rave critical response.

Through his connections with the Greek music-world he came into contact with the Skalkottas Society in Athens. He was asked by the president of the Skalkottas Society to give the first performance of the 32 Piano Pieces by Nikos Skalkottas during the 1979 ISCM Festival, held in Athens that year. A big enterprise, as almost all works had to be played from manuscript. This was the start of many performances of the cycle and a long-time relationship with Skalkottas. In 1998 the Swedish label BIS invited him to take part in their Skalkottas project. In 1999 Piano Concerto No. 1 under Nikos Christodoulou with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra was released and in 2004 Piano Concerto No. 3 with Nikos Christodoulou and the Caput Ensemble followed by Piano Concerto No. 2 in 2005, with the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Nikos Christodoulou. Nikos Christodoulou and Geoffrey Madge are working together regularly; performances of Skalkottas’ 1st concerto have followed in Berlin and Odense and more are scheduled.

Geoffrey Madge’s recital programmes are a combination of classical, romantic and contemporary works, preferably a combination of well-known and unknown compositions. Also special projects like his “Cathedrals of Sound” series (put together for the 1996 Adelaide Festival) in which he performs in 3 or 4 recitals epoch-making works of the whole piano literature, or a performance of the Berlioz/Liszt Symphonie Fantastique. During the last years he has been performing Bach’s Goldberg Variations and the complete Well-tempered Clavier worldwide. Performances of such major works as Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations and Hammerklavier Sonata, Reger’s Bach Variations and the Debussy Etudes have always been a highlight in his concert programmes.

More CD releases include Bach/Busoni transcriptions, works by Godowsky, Mitropoulos, Reubke, Krenek, Wolpe, Russian music from the 1920s, Medtner’s three piano concertos and Gershwin’s works for piano and orchestra.

In September 2005 Geoffrey Madge was awarded in Cracow, Poland, the prestigious Silver Medal “For Merits to Culture Gloria Artis” for his very prominent artistic creations and great contribution to the music culture.

Further information can be found on the artist’s webpage: