James MacMillan

James MacMillan is one of today’s most successful living composers and is also internationally active as a conductor. His musical language is flooded with influences from his Scottish heritage, Catholic faith, social conscience and close connection with Celtic folk music, blended with influences from Far Eastern, Scandinavian and Eastern European music.

MacMillan first became internationally recognised after the extraordinary success of The Confession of Isobel Gowdie at the BBC Proms in 1990. His prolific output has since been performed and broadcast around the world, placing him in the front rank of today’s composers. His major works include percussion concerto Veni, Veni, Emmanuel, which has received more than 400 performances, a cello concerto for Mstislav Rostropovich, large scale choral-orchestral work Quickening, and three symphonies. Recent major works include his St John Passion, co-commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra, Concertgebouw Orchestra, Boston Symphony and Rundfunkchor Berlin, and his Violin Concerto, co-commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Concertgebouw Zaterdag Matinee and the Ensemble Orchestral de Paris. In 2010/11 MacMillan’s Piano Concerto No.3, Mysteries of Light received its world première by the Minnesota Orchestra and Jean-Yves Thibaudet conducted by Osmo Vänskä, and other recent first performances include trumpet concertino Seraph for Alison Balsom at Wigmore Hall, chamber opera Clemency with Britten Sinfonia at the Royal Opera House 2 and the US première of MacMillan’s Violin Concerto with Vadim Repin at Carnegie Hall and in Philadelphia.

MacMillan’s music has been the focus of many major festivals and residencies over the years, and he held the position of Affiliate Composer of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra from 1990-2000, Artistic Director of the Philharmonia Orchestra’s Music of Today series from 1992-2002, and Composer/Conductor of the BBC Philharmonic from 2000-2009. In January 2005 MacMillan was the focus of a major retrospective in the BBC Symphony’s annual composer weekend at London’s Barbican Centre, where he conducted concerts with both the BBC Philharmonic and BBC Symphony Orchestra. In 2009, MacMillan won the prestigious Ivor Novello Classical Music Award and the British Composer Award for Liturgical Music. During the 2009/10 season, the London Symphony Orchestra presented an ‘Artist Portrait’ on MacMillan which, alongside the world première of his Violin Concerto, included him conducting the Orchestra in the 2009 City of London Festival, a revival of the St John Passion with Sir Colin Davis, and performances of his trumpet concerto Epiclesis and an education project based on his work for ensemble and orchestra Into the Ferment, both conducted by Kristjan Järvi. MacMillan is Composer in Residence at the 2012 Grafenegg Festival, the co-commissioners of his new choral-orchestral piece Credo. While at Grafenegg MacMillan conducts this work alongside the music of Britten and Vaughan Williams with the Tonkuenstler Orchestra, rehearses and performs Into the Ferment with young musicians and directs “Ink Still Wet”, a week-long composer/conductor workshop. His works will be performed throughout the Festival.

MacMillan continues his term as Principal Guest Conductor of the Netherlands Radio Kamer Filharmonie, which this season includes performing the Dutch première of his Violin Concerto as part of the Concertgebouw’s Zaterdag Matinee series. MacMillan has conducted orchestras such as the Baltimore Symphony, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Munich Philharmonic, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Toronto Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Melbourne Symphony, Swedish Chamber Orchestra, Danish Radio Symphony and Gothenburg Symphony, and conducting highlights of the current season include the NHK Symphony Orchestra, the Vienna Radio Symphony at the Wien Modern Festival and with the Orchestral Ensemble de Paris where MacMillan is Associate Composer for the 11/12 and 12/13 seasons.

James MacMillan has directed many of his own works on disc for Chandos, BIS and BMG. His latest releases include a live recording of his opera The Sacrifice from its première performance by the Welsh National Opera in 2007 on Chandos, a Grammy-nominated disc of Sun-Dogs and Visitatio Sepulchri with the Netherlands Radio Kamer Filharmonie and Choir on BIS, and an LSO Live disc of his St John Passion with the London Symphony Orchestra under Sir Colin Davis. Upcoming releases include a disc featuring MacMillan’s violin concerto A Deep but Dazzling Darkness and his percussion concerto Veni, Veni, Emmanuel with Colin Currie and the Netherlands Radio Kamer Filharmonie.

MacMillan was awarded a CBE in January 2004.


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