Obituary: Margot MacGibbon

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The Independent Culture
MARGOT MACGIBBON's career as a violinist spanned some 70 years. In her youth she was a fine soloist and, as a chamber music player, she was in the top echelons; she also formed her own "MacGibbon" string quartet which, with various changes of personnel, existed for almost 50 years. She was much sought after as an adjudicator at music festivals and also did some private teaching, but was never on the staff of any institution.

MacGibbon was born in Castlemaine, Melbourne, Australia, and had lessons from her aunt on both piano and violin when quite a small child. But when it came to a choice for a career she decided on the violin and frequently appeared as a soloist in local concerts.

In 1927 she was awarded an Associated Board Scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music in London, where she studied violin with Spencer Dyke, piano with Frank Britton and harmony with Harry Farjeon. She later went for further studies with the pianist Clifford Curzon and violin with the legendary Sascha Lasserson, who became a lifelong friend.

She won a number of prizes during her years at the academy and was appointed sub-professor in ensemble playing while still a student. It was also at the RAM that she met Frederick Jackson, a fellow student whom she later married. Jackson was a much-respected professor of piano at the RAM and a leading choirmaster who had trained many of our well-known choirs including the London Philharmonic. He died in 1972 whilst conducting a performance of the Verdi Requiem in the Duke's Hall at RAM. His wife, who was sitting in the front row, never quite recovered.

Soon after they were married MacGibbon and her husband toured Europe, Australia and New Zea- land giving sonata recitals and received much praise from the critics; they were described as being "musically inseparable". MacGibbon formed her quartet in 1936 and they became a very popular group, giving regular concerts in London and the provinces and broadcast frequently from the BBC.

She had always kept up her piano playing and on one occasion, when the quartet was at the BBC Manchester studios about to rehearse, a singer arrived for an audition but the pianist had failed to turn up. Since no replacement could be found, MacGibbon offered to play for her and astonished everyone present by sight-reading some florid passage-work in a set of Debussy songs.

MacGibbon's whole life was music and she was always happy to step in at the last moment in a chamber orchestra. Over the years she appeared with the Eng- lish Chamber Orchestra and other well-known ensembles; she was also a founder member of the London Mozart Players under Harry Blech.

In 1979, when the Lasserson Memorial Competition was launched MacGibbon was a co-founder and also served on the panel of adjudicators, which consisted of a number of leading musicians many of whom were Lasserson pupils.

MacGibbon looked for musicality and sense of style among candidates rather than a brilliant technique. She was a perfectionist and an awesome critic who insisted upon the highest standards not only for others but for herself. She was never afraid to speak her mind and occasionally she could be quite abrasive, but she was forgiven because her intentions were only to achieve the best possible results for everyone concerned.

She was still playing into her nineties even after she suffered a stroke which slightly affected her speech. A great correspondent, she had a large extended family in Australia, New Zealand and Ireland with whom she kept in touch. While she was a very private person, she much enjoyed the company of fellow musicians; it was said that if, when shopping in Ealing, she happened to meet a musical neighbour, they might well have to listen to a discourse on the beauty of Beethoven's late quartets together with comment on the life and personality of the composer.

Margot MacGibbon, violinist: born Melbourne, Australia 13 March 1906; married 1931 Frederick Jackson (died 1972); died London 4 September 1998.