William David Murdoch (10 February 1888 – 9 September 1942) was an Australian pianist,
composer and author.
Murdoch was born at Bendigo, Victoria, the son
of Andrew Murdoch. While a child he won several competitions as a pianist, and
about the year 1905 was awarded the Bendigo Austral scholarship. This entitled
him to three years' tuition at the University of Melbourne conservatorium of
music, where he continued his studies under W. A. Laver, afterwards Ormond
Professor of Music. In 1906 Murdoch won the Clarke scholarship which entitled
him to three years' tuition at the Royal College of Music, London. As the
scholarship was not large enough to fully provide for the young man, it was
agreed that he should receive the balance of his Austral scholarship, and a
further amount was raised from a concert and subscriptions at Bendigo. Murdoch
spent four happy years at the London college and made great progress.
Murdoch's first recital at London towards the
end of 1910 was very successful, and in 1912 he toured Australia with Louise
Kirkby Lunn. He remained there in 1913 and toured with Dame Clara Butt and
Kennerley Rumford. He was now a fine player with a sparkling technique,
especially successful in his interpretation of the work of Chopin and Debussy.
He toured the United States and Canada during 1914, and for some time was with
the band of the Grenadier Guards in France during the war. He gave recitals in
Scandinavia in 1918 and in the following year began his long association with
the violinist Albert Sammons, which developed into the formation of the
"Chamber Music Players". These two with Lionel Tertis and Lauri
Kennedy did some remarkable ensemble playing. Murdoch contributed the article
on "Pianoforte Music from 1880" to A Dictionary of Modern Music
and Musicians, published in 1924, and in 1929 he again visited Australia
and toured with Harold Williams. In 1933 he published a volume on Brahms, in
which he analysed all his work for the piano, and in 1934 appeared Chopin:
His Life, an interesting record in which much new material was made use of.
He had intended to include a comprehensive study of Chopin's works in a later
volume, but this had not appeared when Murdoch died at Holmbury St Mary,
Surrey, on 9 September 1942. He was married three times, and left a widow, two
sons and two daughters.
Murdoch's arrangements of organ works by Bach
for the piano were very good, and he also composed a number of songs and pieces
for the piano. He was steeped in music from his childhood. When he first
appeared he had a brilliant technique to which the years added the warmth of
temperament and sensitiveness of thought, needed for the expression of a fine
musician. He was especially renowned as one of the great ensemble players of
his time. The critic William James Turner wrote in 1916: Even when we get to
the best pianists it is rarely, if ever, that we find a combination of
exceptional technical mastery with tone-power, delicacy of touch, brilliance,
command of colour, sensitiveness of phrasing, variety of feeling, imagination
and vital passion. Mr. Murdoch possesses all these qualities to a high degree
(Australian Dictionary of Biography).