Alasdair Malloy is a renowned player of the extraordinary and ethereal Glass Harmonica. The only player in the UK, he is one of a handful in the world and at the forefront of its 21st Century revival.
Alasdair believes that the Glass Harmonica is an instrument which, with its resonances of the past, has a strong relevance today. He regularly collaborates with some of the most innovative and inquisitive musicians across a variety of musical fields, premiering numerous new works, featuring on countless film scores and recording with many rock and pop artists while regularly performing the classical works for the instrument.
Glass Harmonica is the name given to a number of different glass instruments where the glass is made to vibrate directly by the player’s fingers. Alasdair has a number of these, including an instrument made of wine glasses mounted in a frame tuned with water, often called musical glasses or glass harp, an Armonica, based on an invention by Benjamin Franklin (Alasdair’s custom built instrument has a range of three octaves sounding from F below middle C, tuned to A=442) and a Grand Harmonicon, which is a vast wooden cabinet containing over four octaves of pre-tuned glass bowls which would originally have been played by two performers. Alasdair is currently having this instrument restored.
Benjamin Franklin fell in love with the sound of resonating glass while attending a recital in London in 1762 given on wine glasses tuned with water. He refined and improved this method of performance and invented a new instrument, which he named the Armonica, consisting of a series of rotating tuned bowls mounted horizontally. Mozart composed two pieces for the Armonica, the solo Adagio in C K356 and his final chamber work the Adagio and Rondo K617 for Armonica, flute, oboe, viola and cello which can also be played by string quartet. Following his death the first sketches for another piece with the same ensemble line up were found in his effects, proving how much Mozart loved the instrument and its possibilities.
“As Glass Harmonica virtuoso Alasdair Malloy made clear, what Mozart did with it was hauntingly beautiful…“
Scotsman (Michael Church).
Beethoven used the Armonica to create an otherwordly sound in his Melodram Op 203, incidental music for a play, where the instrument accompanies spoken voice in a scene at a graveside.
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Alasdair has given recitals in many venues including Benjamin Franklin’s original house in London, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Megaron in Athens and the Maltings in Snape as well as many concert appearances with orchestras in the UK and Europe including two new concertos by David Horne, Vapours, premiered with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra at the Northlands Festival and Fireflies, premiered with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. Many contemporary composers have composed for him and he has given premieres of works by Anne Dudley, Catherine Kontz, Etienne Rolin, Oliver Davis and Charlie Barber amongst others.
Edgardo Rudnitzky composed his solo Armonica piece Twilight for Alasdair and it was premiered as part of an art installation by Jorge Macchi.
George Benjamin consulted closely with Alasdair when writing his opera Written on Skin and included a significant part for the Armonica. The work received superlative reviews when premiered at the 2012 Aix en Provence Festival and will be performed extensively across Europe over the next few years.
“The music is incredibly beautiful… but also sublimely thrilling (with) mixtures of glass harmonica and viola da gamba which never covers the voices and glows around them in close harmony.”
Le Monde (Renaud Machart), 10 July 2012
…..the ability to crystallise a whole mood in a single mysterious chord”
The Guardian (Andrew Clements), 8 July “2012
Many film and television composers have written especially for Alasdair and his glass instruments, attracted not just by the instruments’ mysterious yet beautiful and expressive sounds but also by Alasdair’s consummate musicianship and adaptable approach.
With his years of studio experience in many guises he has made the glass harmonica a regular feature in the most famous recording studios in London. Film and television composers who have written for Alasdair in their scores include Debbie Wiseman, George Fenton, Anne Dudley, Mychael Danna, Barnaby Taylor, Christopher Slaski, Daniel Pemberton, Ilan Eshkeri, Patrick Doyle, Benjamin Wallfisch, Carter Burwell, Phillipe Sarde, Alexander Desplat, Zbigniew Preisner, Lesley Barber, Alex Heffes, Eric Serra and Marc Streitenfield.
Rock and Pop
Alasdair is often sought out by musicians from the world of rock and pop, mostly initially intrigued by an instrument sounding so contemporary yet having such a fascinating heritage, and Alasdair continues to work with some of the most creative musicians in this area. He has recorded and performed with, amongst many others, Bjork, Scott Walker, Mike Oldfield, Jarvis Cocker, David Gilmour, Dido, and Jon Brion. Bjork made a short documentary featuring Alasdair on musical glasses for Renegade TV gets Dazed.
In 2011 Alasdair recorded the entire musical track for a Bells Whisky commercial on his glass instruments, then subsequently travelled out to Hungary to train actors to mime his playing on whisky glasses “tuned” with real Bells Whisky. Alasdair can also be spotted in the middle of this incredible glass orchestra.