Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Kiallmark, George

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KIALLMARK or KILMARK, GEORGE (1781–1835), musical composer, born at King's Lynn in 1781, was the son of John Kiallmark, an officer in the Swedish navy, and of Margaret (or Marggrit, as it is written in the parish register) Meggitt, a Yorkshire heiress, who lived at Wakefield and was a descendant of Sir Joseph Banks. His parents' marriage took place in St. Nicholas's Chapel, Lynn, 4 Oct. 1775. Shortly after George's birth his father, who had run through his property, disappeared and soon died. Thereupon his widow married her butler, a man named Pottle, and George was adopted by his mother's family. He began his education under the care of a Dr. and Mrs. Gardiner (née Meggitt); but he showed at an early age a strong taste for music, and he was placed under a German professor for purposes of musical instruction from 1796 to 1798. For some time after 1798 Kiallmark maintained himself by teaching the violin and piano, and when he had accumulated sufficient funds, took further lessons from Barthelemon, Cobham, and Spagnoletti in violin-playing, and from Von Esch and (later) from Logier in composition. He held many important posts, was a member of all the principal concert and theatre orchestras, and leader of the music at Sadler's Wells. In 1803 he married Mary Carmichael, a cousin of the Countess of Rothes, and settled in Islington, London. Here he devoted himself to teaching the harp, violin, and piano, and soon acquired a large and lucrative connection. He resigned his public engagements, and devoted himself entirely to his pupils and to composition, entering into arrangements with Chappell and D'Almaine to supply them annually with a fixed number of compositions. He died in March 1835, leaving a large family.

His chief works were:

  1. Introduction and variations to ‘Roy's Wife.’
  2. Introduction to ‘Last Rose of Summer.’
  3. Variations on ‘Home, sweet Home.’
  4. ‘Les Fleurs de Printems,’ in six books.

Also a number of songs, of which the only one that survives is ‘Maid of Athens.’ Many of his compositions are still extant in manuscript.

His eldest son, George Frederick Kiallmark (1804–1887), musician, born at Camden Street, Islington, 7 Nov. 1804, was educated at Margate. He began his musical career at the age of fourteen, assisting his father in the work of musical tuition; afterwards he studied under Logier and taught his system. At sixteen he went to Rouen and thence to Paris to place himself successively under Zimmermann and Kalkbrenner. Returning to England in 1825 he became intimate with Clementi, by whose advice he sought further instruction from Moscheles. In 1829 he married the eldest daughter of Dr. Bryant of the Edgware Road, and gave his first public concert at the King's Theatre in 1832.

When in Paris, Kiallmark formed a great friendship with Thalberg, upon whose method and style he moulded his own. His playing was remarkable for delicacy of touch, and he was a superb player of Chopin's works. On hearing Kiallmark play, Mendelssohn said: ‘A fine sketch of what piano-playing should be, and what he will one day make it.’ Niecks, in his ‘Life of Chopin’ (pp. 280–1), writes: ‘Kiallmark is said to have had a thorough appreciation and understanding of Chopin's genius;’ and he took especial delight in playing Chopin's ‘Nocturnes.’

In 1842 Kiallmark opened an academy for the study of the piano at his residence, 29 Percy Street. During his long life he was associated with every great pianist from Clementi to Rubinstein, and at the age of seventy-eight he studied the sonatas of Gade and Rubinstein. At eighty he was still daily practising Clementi's ‘Gradus.’ He died on 13 Dec. 1887, having only a week before played a Thalberg transcription with much of his old fire and brilliancy. He was a fine extempore player, but his compositions have not survived.

Of the Kiallmarks, father and son, there exist several portraits. Of the father, one by W. Simpson, 1820, half-length, life size. Of the son: one by J. Slater, in ‘Musical Keepsake,’ 1834; another by H. C. Selous, 1836, three-quarter length, life size; and a third by J. P. Knight, R.A., 1845, three-quarter length, life size. There is also a bust of the younger Kiallmark by Edward H. Baily [q. v.], 1845, companion to a bust of Thalberg by the same sculptor. These are in the possession of the descendants of Kiallmark.

[Georgian Era, iv. 549; Goulding's and Chappell's Catalogues; Mus. Times, January 1888; Dram. and Mus. Rev. 17 Dec. 1842; Niecks's Chopin, 1888, pp. 280–1 notes; Mus. Keepsake, 1834; parish reg.; private sources.]

R. H. L.