James MacMillan read music at The University of Edinburgh and took doctoral studies in composition at Durham University with John Casken. After working as a lecturer at Manchester University, he returned to Scotland and settled in Glasgow. The successful premiere of Tryst at the 1990 St Magnus Festival led to his appointment as Affiliate Composer of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. Between 1992 and 2002 he was Artistic Director of the Philharmonia Orchestra's Music of Today series of contemporary music concerts. MacMillan is internationally active as a conductor, working as composer/conductor with the BBC Philharmonic between 2000 and 2009, and appointed Principal Guest Conductor of the Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic from 2010. He was awarded a CBE in January 2004.
In addition to 'The Confession of Isobel Gowdie', which launched MacMillan's international career at the BBC Proms in 1990, his orchestral output includes the percussion concerto 'Veni, Veni, Emmanuel', premiered by Evelyn Glennie in 1992 and which has since received over four hundred performances worldwide.
MacMillan's music has been programmed extensively at international music festivals, including the Edinburgh Festival in 1993, the Bergen Festival in 1997, the South Bank Centre's 1997 Raising Sparks festival in London, the Queensland Biennial in 1999, the BBC Barbican Composer Weekend in 2005 and the Grafenegg Festival in 2012. A documentary film portrait of MacMillan by Robert Bee was screened on ITV's South Bank Show in 2003.
Works by MacMillan from the 1990s also include 'Seven Last Words from the Cross' for chorus and string orchestra, premiered by Cappella Nova and screened on BBC TV during Holy Week 1994, 'Inés de Castro', premiered by Scottish Opera, a triptych of orchestral works commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra: 'The World's Ransoming', a Cello Concerto for Mstislav Rostropovich, and Symphony: ‘Vigil' premiered under the baton of Rostropovich in 1997, and 'Quickening' for The
Hilliard Ensemble, chorus and orchestra, co-commissioned by the BBC Proms and the Philadelphia Orchestra.
MacMillan's works composed over the past decade include Piano Concerto No. 2 first performed with choreography by Christopher Wheeldon at New York City Ballet, 'A Scotch Bestiary' which was commissioned to inaugurate the new organ at Disney Hall with soloist Wayne Marshall and the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen, and 'The Sacrifice' premiered and toured by Welsh National Opera in 2007. His 'St John Passion', co-commissioned by the London Symphony
Orchestra, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra and Berlin Radio Choir, was premiered under the baton of Sir Colin Davis in 2008. 2010 featured the premieres of two new concertos: a violin concerto for Vadim
Repin co-commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra, Zaterdag Matinee and Philadelphia Orchestra and an oboe concerto toured by Nicholas Daniel and the Britten Sinfonia. 2011 highlights included premieres of MacMillan's Piano
Concerto No. 3 for Jean-Yves Thibaudet and the Minnesota Orchestra and a new one-act opera, Clemency, commissioned by the ROH2 (the contemporary arm of the Royal Opera House), Scottish Opera, Boston Lyric Opera and Britten Sinfonia.
First performances in 2012 included festive settings of the Gloria (to mark the 50th anniversary of the consecration of Coventry Cathedral) and of the Credo which received its world premiere at the BBC Proms.
In terms of recordings, the Koch Schwann disc of 'The Confession of Isobel Gowdie' and 'Tryst' won the 1993 Gramophone Contemporary Music Record of the Year Award, and the BMG recording of 'Veni, Veni, Emmanuel' won the 1993 Classic CD Award for Contemporary Music. MacMillan discs on the BIS label include the complete 'Triduum' conducted by Osmo Vänskä, the clarinet concerto 'Ninian' and the trumpet concerto 'Epiclesis'. A MacMillan series on Chandos with the BBC Philharmonic includes The Berserking, Symphony No. 3: ‘Silence' which won a Classical BRIT award in 2006, 'Quickening' and 'The Sacrifice'. Other acclaimed recordings include 'Mass' and 'Seven Last Words from the Cross' on Hyperion and discs on the Naxos, Black Box, Coro, Linn and London Symphony Orchestra Live labels.
James MacMillan is published exclusively by Boosey & Hawkes.
Reprinted by kind permission of Boosey & Hawkes
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International Record Review
‘All of the music on this disc is characterized by its intelligence and forward-looking beauty…’more >>BBC Radio 3 'CD Review'
‘[...fiat mihi…] is properly timeless isn’t it? Those celtic ornamentations he uses, and this choir is so good at that as well now. They are very beautiful…’more >>BBC Music Magazine
Choral & Song Choice: 'A marvellous set of performances.'more >>Classical CD Review
‘The composer’s intricate ensemble writing is beautifully performed by the superb chorus, and the engineering richly captures the warm resonance of Church of Holy Rude, Stirling, UK.’more >>MusicWeb International
'The music is stimulating and compelling and the performances are first rate.'more >>