Intermusica Artists' Management



Intermusica represents James MacMillan worldwide.

Catherine Gibbs

Assistant to Artist Manager:
Caroline Gibbs

Other Links:

Boosey & Hawkes

Netherlands Radio Kamer Filharmonie

James MacMillan


James MacMillan is one of today’s most successful 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. His major works include percussion concerto Veni, Veni, Emmanuel, which has received more than 400 performances, a cello concerto for Mstislav Rostropovich and three symphonies. Recent major works include his St John Passion co-commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Berlin Radio Choir, his Violin Concerto, Viola Concerto, St Luke Passion and, most recently, his Percussion Concerto No.2 for Colin Currie, co-commissioned by the Philharmonia Orchestra, Edinburgh International Festival, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Sao Paulo Symphony Orchesta and Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music.

MacMillan enjoys a flourishing career as conductor of his own music alongside a range of contemporary and standard repertoire, praised for the composer’s insight he brings to each score. He was Principal Guest Conductor of the Netherlands Radio Kamer Filharmonie until 2013 and was Composer/Conductor of the BBC Philharmonic from 2000-2009; he has conducted orchestras such as the Baltimore Symphony, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Munich Philharmonic, Vienna Radio Symphony, Danish Radio Symphony, Gothenburg Symphony, Luxembourg Philharmonic, City of Birmingham Symphony, Bournemouth Symphony, Toronto Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and NHK Symphony Orchestra among others. MacMillan was Composer in Residence at the 2012 Grafenegg Festival and a London Symphony Orchestra Portrait Artist in the 2009/10 season.

In spring 2014 MacMillan conducted three projects with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, culminating in a ground-breaking tour to India with Nicola Benedetti performing in Chennai, Mumbai and Delhi including public concerts, schools concerts and outreach work. In the 2014/15 season, MacMillan conducts orchestras including the Bergen Philharmonic, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and the Britten Sinfonia. In January 2015 he conducts a new production of his opera, Inés de Castro, at Scottish Opera and elsewhere this season conducts choral concerts in Sao Paulo and with the BBC Singers. In October 2014 MacMillan founded his music festival, The Cumnock Tryst, which takes place in his native Ayrshire.

MacMillan has directed many of his own works on disc for Chandos, BIS and BMG, most recently a disc featuring MacMillan’s violin concerto A Deep but Dazzling Darkness and percussion concerto Veni, Veni, Emmanuel with Colin Currie and the Netherlands Radio Kamer Filharmonie.

MacMillan was awarded a CBE in January 2004.

James MacMillan is represented by Intermusica.
The works of James MacMillan are published by Boosey & Hawkes. For a composing biography, please visit the Boosey & Hawkes website.
2014/15 season / 461 words. Not to be altered without permission. Please destroy all previous biographical material.

Sample conducting programmes

Key repertoire to place alongside MacMillan’s music includes: Britten, Stravinsky, Mendelssohn, Vaughan Williams, Shostakovich, Arvo Part, Kancheli, Messiaen, Prokofiev, Sibelius.

Danish National Symphony Orchestra
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra

MACMILLAN St John Passion

Tonkuenstler Orchestra, Grafenegg Festival
BRITTEN Four Sea Interludes
MACMILLAN The Sacrifice: Three Interludes

Munich Philharmonic Orchestra
BRITTEN Violin Concerto
MACMILLAN Symphony No.1

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
MENDELSSOHN The Hebrides Overture
MOZART Violin Concerto No.5

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
RIMSKY-KORSAKOV Russian Easter Festival Overture
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No.4
WAGNER Good Friday Music
MACMILLAN The World’s Ransoming

Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra, SWR
MENDELSSOHN Hebrides Overture, Op.26
WAGNER Siegfried Idyll
MACMILLAN Oboe Concerto

London Symphony Orchestra
MENDELSSOHN The Hebrides Overture
MACMILLAN A Meditation on Iona
MACMILLAN From Ayrshire
TCHAIKOVSKY Souvenir d'un lieu cher

Wien Modern Festival, Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra
BIRTWHISTLE An Imaginary Landscape
RESCH Schlieren
HOWARD Calculus of the Nervous System
CERHA Like a Tragicomedy

Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra
ARNOLD Tam O'Shanter Overture
STENHAMMAR Piano Concerto No.2
MACMILLAN Symphony No.3 Silence

NHK Symphony Orchestra
MACMILLAN Violin Concerto
ATSUTADA OTAKA Au-delà du Temps

Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonie
MACMILLAN Sinfonietta
BRITTEN A Scottish Ballad
BRITTEN Les Illuminations

Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonie
BARTOK Romanian Folk Dances
MACMILLAN Violin Concerto

Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonie
BRITTEN Prelude & Fugue op.29
SHOSTAKOVICH Cello concerto No.1
MACMILLAN Seven Last Words from the Cross

Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonie
KEURIS Variations for Strings
TORSTENSSON Violin Concerto
SIBELIUS Pelleas and Melisande

Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonie
BETTY OLIVERO Neharot, Neharot
BARTOK Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta

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Worklist highlights

Percussion Concerto for Colin Currie (from 2014/15)
Percussion and orchestra

Viola Concerto for Lawrence Power (from 2013/14)
Viola and orchestra

St Luke Passion (from 2013/14)
Chorus and orchestra

Credo (August 2012)
Chorus and orchestra

Seraph (2010) 15’
Solo trumpet and chamber orchestra

Oboe Concerto (2009-10) 23’
Solo oboe and symphony orchestra

Violin Concerto (2009) 25’
Symphony/chamber orchestra

Piano Concerto No.3 (2007-08) 25’
Solo piano and symphony orchestra

St John Passion (2007) 87’
Solo baritone, chorus and orchestra

The Sacrifice: Three Interludes (2006) 15’
Symphony orchestra

From Ayrshire (2005) 8’
Solo violin and symphony orchestra

Symphony No.3 ‘Silence (2002) 37’
Symphony orchestra

A Deep but Dazzling Darkness (2002) 22’
Solo violin and ensemble (20 musicians), tape

Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis (2000) 20’
Chorus with organ or symphony orchestra

The World’s Ransoming (1996) 20’
Cor anglais concerto - solo cor anglais and symphony orchestra

Seven Last Words from the Cross (1992) 46’
Cantata for choir and strings

Veni, Veni, Emmanuel (1992) 28’
Percussion concerto - solo percussion and chamber / symphony orchestra

The Confession of Isobel Gowdie (1990) 26’
Symphony Orchestra

Tryst (1989) 30’
Chamber Orchestra

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James MacMillan
Quickening, Three Interludes from The Sacrifice
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
The Hilliard Ensemble
City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus & Youth Chorus
James MacMillan, conductor
CHSA 5072
James MacMillan
A Scotch Bestiary, Piano Concerto No.2
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
James MacMillan, conductor
Wayne Marshall, organ / piano
CHAN 10377
James MacMillan
The Confession of Isobel Gowdie, Symphony No.3 'Silence'
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
James MacMillan, conductor
CHAN 10275
James MacMillan
Britannia, The Beserking, Magnificat, Into the Ferment
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
James MacMillan, conductor
Martin Roscoe, piano
CHAN 10092
James MacMillan
The Birds of Rhiannon, Magnificat, Nunc dimittis, Exsultet, Màiri, The Gallant Weaver
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
BBC Singers
James MacMillan, conductor
Stephen Betheridge, chorus master
CHAN 9997
James MacMillan
Symphony No 2, Sinfonietta, Cumnock Fair
Scottish Chamber Orchestra
James MacMillan, conductor
Graeme McNaught, piano
BIS-CD 1119
James MacMillan
Three Dawn Rituals, Veni, Veni, Emmanuel, After the Tryst, …as others see us…
Scottish Chamber Orchestra
James MacMillan, conductor
Graeme McNaught, piano
BMG Catalyst
James MacMillan
The Beserking*, Brittania, Sinfonietta, Sowetan Spring
Royal Scottish National Orchestra
James MacMillan, conductor
Markus Stenz, conductor*
Peter Donohoe, piano
BMG/RCA Red Seal
James MacMillan
Búsqueda, Visitatio Sepulchri
Scottish Chamber Orchestra
James MacMillan, conductor
BMG Catalyst
James MacMillan
Cantos Sagrados, Seven Last Words from the Cross
London Chamber Orchestra
James MacMillan, conductor
BMG Catalyst


James MacMillan
The Sacrifice
Welsh National Opera
Christopher Purves & Leigh Melrose, baritone
Lisa Milne & Sarah Tynan, soprano
Peter Hoare, tenor
Anthony Negus, conductor
CHAN 10572(2)
James MacMillan
St John Passion
London Symphony Orchestra
Sir Colin Davis, conductor
Christopher Maltman, baritone
LSO Live,
LSO 0671
James MacMillan
The World's Ransoming, The Confession of Isobel Gowdie
London Symphony Orchestra
Sir Colin Davis, conductor
Christine Pendrill, cor anglais
LSO Live,
LSO 0124
James MacMillan
The Confession of Isobel Gowdie
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Marin Alsop, conductor
LPO 0035
James MacMillan
Cello Sonata No.1, Kiss on Wood, Cello Sonata No.2, Northern Skies
Henri Demarquette, cello
Graham Scott, piano
DXL 1115
James MacMillan
Seven Last Words from the Cross, On the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin, Te Deum
Britten Sinfonia
Stephen Layton, conductor
James Vivian, organ
CDA 67460
James MacMillan
Fourteen Little Pictures, Angel Lumen Christi, Cello Sonata No.1, A Cecilian Variation for JFK, Kiss on Wood
Members of the Nash ensemble
Raphael Wallfisch, cello
John York, piano
Black Box
BBM 1008
James MacMillan
The World's Ransoming, Concerto for Cello and Orchestra
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
Osmo Vanska, conductor
Raphael Wallfisch, cello
Christine Pendrill, cor anglais
BIS-CD 989
James MacMillan
Why is the night different?, Tuireadh, Visions of a November Spring, Memento
Emperor String Quartet
Robert Plane, clarinet
BIS-CD 1269
James MacMillan
Symphony 'Vigil'
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
Fine Arts Brass Ensemble
Osmo Vanska, conductor
BIS-CD 990
James MacMillan
A New Song, Mass, Christus Vincit, Gaudeamus in loci pace, Seite Mari moder milde, A Child's Prayer, Changed
the Choir of Westminster Cathedral
Martin Baker, master of music
Andrew Reid, organ
CDA 67219
James MacMillan
Tryst, Adam's Rib, They saw the stone had been rolled away, I (A meditation on Iona)
Scottish Chamber Orchestra
Scottish Chamber Orchestra Brass
Joseph Swensen, conductor
BIS-CD 1019

Recording: Third volume of James MacMillan conducting own works with Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic & Netherlands Radio Choir released on Challenge Classics
“MacMillan elicits a magnificent response from the Netherlands string players, oscillating violently from hushed meditations to wild, slashing interjections and keening glissandos… It’s hard to imagine any of these performances being bettered.”
Terry Blain, BBC Music Magazine, September 2014

From Ayrshire… shows a completely different side of MacMillan. This miniature two-movement violin concerto, composed in 2005 for Nicola Benedetti, conjures the atmosphere of the composer’s Scottish birthplace with wonderful, poised precision of touch (the opening bars are magical). The dreamy first movement and the even shorter, reel-like second together last less than eight minutes; yet they create a complete and unforgettable musical world.

'Tuireadh' (Gaelic for ‘lament’), commemorating those who died in the Piper Alpha oil platform disaster of 1988, finds MacMillan in strident mode, with its 20-minute litany of anguished gestures for clarinet and string orchestra. Rhetoric dominates also in 'Kiss on Wood' for cello and strings, relating to the chant ‘Behold of the wood of the Cross’ in Roman Catholic liturgy.

Yet another side of MacMillan’s talent is on display in …as others see us… This six-movement sequence depicts a series of portraits in London’s National Portrait Gallery, ranging from Henry VIII to TS Eliot and the chemist Dorothy Hodgkin, each recreated in musical terms with an incisive brilliance that mesmerises the ear. The composer-directed performances, like the recorded sound, are of state-of-the-art vividness.”
Malcolm Hayes, Sinfini Music, July 2014

“This third volume in the Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic’s recordings of James MacMillan’s music, with the composer conducting, focuses on music for soloists with chamber orchestra. The contrasts are vivid, between the relaxed reworking of the Scots song Ca’ the Yowes in the two -movement From Ayrshire – violinist Linus Roth capturing equally the rhapsodic pastoralism of the opening Lento and the earthy hustle and bustle of the Fast Reel – to the spectral glow of Tuireadh (Lars Wouters ven der Oudeweijer on clarinet) and devotional ecstasy of Kiss on Wood, powerfully played by Julius Berger. MacMillan’s shaping of his own music is probing and direct, and hugely characterful in the often parodic variations that constitute others see us..., quirky musical sketches based on images from the National Portrait Gallery.”
Ken Walton, Scotsman, June 2014

“These varied chamber works by James MacMillan are keenly concerned with Scottish identity, whether in the two-part From Ayrshire, written for violinist Nicola Benedetti and here played by Linus Roth, or in Tuireadh, a lament for victims of the Piper Alpha oil-rig disaster. The six-part …as others see us… includes incisive musical portraits of Henry VIII, the Earl of Rochester, TS Eliot (complete with foxtrot) and, most touching of all, the scientist Dorothy Hodgkin. Last July, the excellent Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic gave its last concert, forced to disband because of arts cuts by the Dutch government. At once a warning to our own musical life and a tribute to this fine band, it makes this CD – the ensemble's third with MacMillan – all the more covetable.”
Fiona Maddocks, Observer, June 2014

James MacMillan conducts his Missa Dunelmi with Cappella Nova for new all-MacMillan choral disc on Linn Records
“Cappella Nova make James MacMillan’s Missa Dunelmi sound much easier to sing than it actually is, and that’s a compliment. The tricky cluster chords at the start of the Sanctus sound tight, the eight-part writing in the Gloria clearly voiced and confidently balanced.

Perhaps it helps having MacMillan himself directing: it’s interesting his default dynamic in the piece is restrained and quietly spoken, enhancing the devotional atmosphere of the performance. The Agnus Dei particularly benefits, its expansive phrases flowing gently yet unfalteringly forward.”
BBC Music Magazine, April 2014

James MacMillan conducts programme of Scottish contemporary music with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
“MacMillan and the SSO gave eager, malleable support to Driver’s feverish, fastidious performance, making a convincing case for a work that deserves way more air time than it gets.”
Scotsman, March 2014

James MacMillan conducts all-MacMillan programme with BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
“The orchestra played with passion and precision throughout, brightly blazing in the brass fanfare Exsultet and beautifully tender in the touching memorial For Sonny.”
Guardian, January 2014

“This is James MacMillan, now established as a foremost internationally-acclaimed composer, with a uniquely recognisable musical language, and a canon of works that is already of lifetime proportions… This was a powerhouse performance.”
Scotsman, January 2014

“How do we characterise the phenomenal concert given on Saturday night by the BBC SSO, with a string of premieres played by this unique orchestra in a programme devoted to the music of James MacMillan, all conducted by the man himself? The night featured music that was beguiling, intriguing, poignant, hilarious, electrifyingly exciting, challenging and, for those who know a little about MacMillan's music, comprehensively revelatory.”
Herald, January 2014

The Sixteen perform James MacMillan on Choral Pilgrimage Tour
“The most striking parts of the evening all came from James MacMillan. No other British choral composer today links back so strongly to his Catholic renaissance forebears: the simplicity of his Dominus dabit benignitatem and the Baroque ornamentation of Videns dominus nicely complimented the Palestrina pieces they followed. Best of all was his Miserere, the outstanding work of the evening. Complex in design, at one moment little more than plainchant, at the next racked with painfully emotional harmonies, it shows how masterful MacMillan has become as a choral composer. The Miserere is dedicated to Christophers and The Sixteen gave a memorably intense performance of it.”
Financial Times, September 2013

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Vadim Repin perform James MacMillan’s Violin Concerto at the Proms
“For the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra the following day, Vadim Repin was the soloist in James MacMillan’s outstanding Violin Concerto (2009), a work whose song and dance (written in memory of the composer’s mother) seems increasingly a virtuoso transformation of pain into disquieted understanding through music: artless, dazzlingly artful, and raging in reels and recollections against the dying of a searingly bright light.”
Hilary Finch, Times, August 2013

Recording: Second volume of James MacMillan conducting own works with Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic & Netherlands Radio Choir released on Challenge Classics
“There’s much more light and shade in the second instalment of Dutch label Challenge Classics MacMillan series, with the composer conducting. The energetic early Tryst for orchestra, an impressive, eclectic piece which announced MacMillan as an important new arrival back in 1989, shares the programme with three choral works: the Advent antiphon O, with its lonely, slow trumpet solo; the slow-burning Magnificat (1999), opening with almost other-worldly stillness and taking nearly 10 minutes to reach a plateau of climaxes; and the calmly flowing Nunc Dimittis (2001), decorated with quiet Messiaen-like flutterings of birdsong, before it explodes into bright colours. The orchestral sound is vivid, the choral contributions beautifully blended.”
Irish Times, July 2013

“This recording of James MacMillan’s music by the Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic covers almost 20 years of his composing career. The oldest work, Tryst, is the one that brought him to public attention with its performance by the SCO at the 1989 St Magnus Festival in Orkney. Based on a Scots poem by James Soutar, it’s a multi-faceted work, which graduates from the startling to the settled, but without ever losing its edge.

Three religious works complete the album: O, an antiphon composed as part of his Strathclyde Motets for liturgical performance by parish church choirs, and a Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis composed for Wells and Westminster Cathedrals respectively. All demonstrate the beautifully rounded atmospheric effect, deriving from a thoughtful, modern writing style that makes MacMillan one of today’s most popular composers of religious music.”
Alexander Bryce, The Scotsman, five stars, June 2013

“Followers of James MacMillan’s choral music may recognise O as an adaptation of his earlier O Oriens, one of the Strathclyde Motets. In this fine new album – volume two of a multi-disc series in which the composer directs his own music with the Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic and Choir – we hear the original vocal motet, modified for three treble voices, trumpet and strings. The result is exquisite, MacMillan shrouding the fundamentally tonal language in a halo of strings and floating solo trumpet. That same shimmering instrumental writing sets a magical opening atmosphere to his 1999 Magnificat, coupled here with the equally devotional, somewhat exotic Nunc Dimittis. The inclusion of one purely symphonic work, the emotionally-loaded Tryst, gives balance to a very listenable, very moving disc.”
The Scotsman, five stars, April 2013

The Sixteen perform James MacMillan on Choral Pilgrimage Tour
“It was the MacMillan selection that overwhelmed. Two Advent pieces — Dominus dabit benignitatem, with ecstatic sopranos soaring over dark Samuel Barber-like harmonies; and O Radiant Dawn, with allusions back to Tallis and spine-shivering alto suspensions — seemed charged with evangelical ecstasy. Even more impressive was Miserere, his setting of Psalm 51, which harks back to Allegri’s 17th-century setting yet explores diverse modern timbres and harmonies.”
Times, April 2013

“MacMillan's Miserere, composed last year for Harry Christophers and the Sixteen, is a wonderfully sustained, beautifully paced and varied setting, with its own moment of catharsis when it dissolves into purest E major for the final stanzas.”
Guardian, March 2013

Today, the Grafenegg audience encountered one of the most successful Scottish composers of the present day in James MacMillan, as the closing concert of the Festival traditionally belongs to the Composer in Residence. Britten’s ‘Sea Interludes’ from the opera ‘Peter Grimes’ kicked off a very sophisticated Summer’s evening. Having presented the stormy tonality of his English colleague, MacMillan went on to pour forth an expression of his own faith.

A cornerstone of the creative work of MacMillan, born in 1959, is his genuine Catholic faith, and so the Austrian premiere of his ‘Credo’ at the Wolkenturm was the audible fulfilment of one of his dearest wishes. This statement of belief reached out to the audience in a shimmering sound-world, as the Arnold Schoenberg Choir moved effectively between the tonalities of Bruckner’s Harmonielehre, primordial Gregorian modes and even oriental motifs.

In Ralph Vaughan William’s Fourth Symphony (yet another British compatriot; three cheers for the well thought-out programme!), the Tonkünstler Orchestra of Lower Austria showed courageous self-abandon in their performance of a masterpiece that is barely known in this country. The strings strode through the Andante with impressive energy, almost in preparation for the stirring finale. And with such thorough grounding in the music of Great Britain, the Tonkünstler Orchestra gave a wonderful performance of the interludes from MacMillan’s opera ‘The Sacrifice’. These intermezzi were collected together in 2007, shortly after the premiere at Welsh National Opera of this opera about the civil war. The message of the necessity of peaceful cooperation was apparent in these distinctively phrased scenes, despite their brevity. The audience, many of whom were young people, responded with great enthusiasm.


Heuer begegnete dem Grafenegger Publikum mit James MacMillan einer der erfolgreichsten schottischen Tonschöpfer der Gegenwart, das Abschlusskonzert beim Musikfestival gehörte traditionell dem Composer in Residence. Was mit Brittens "Sea Interludes" aus der Oper "Peter Grimes" als anspruchsvolles Spätsommerkonzert begann, entpuppte sich auch als solches. Gerade präsentierte MacMillan vom Dirigentenpult aus die stürmische Tonalität des englischen Kollegen, schon erging er sich in der eigenen Gläubigkeitt.

Ein Eckpfeiler für das Schaffen des 1959 geborenen Künstlers ist sein gelebter Katholizismus, mit der österreichischen Erstaufführung seines "Credo" im Wolkenturm erfüllte er sich hörbar einen Herzenswunsch. Dieses Glaubensbekenntnis begegnete den Hörern in schillernder Tonalität, der Arnold Schoenberg Chor bewegte sich auf effektvollen Wegen von Bruckners angewandter Harmonielehre bis zu urwüchsig gregorianischen und sogar erfüllt orientalischen Motiven.

In Ralph Vaughan Williams Vierter Symphonie (noch ein britischer Landsmann, ein Hoch auf das durchdachte Konzept!) bewies das Tonkünstler-Orchester Niederösterreich Mut zur Hingabe an hierzulande weniger bekannte Meisterwerke. Eindrucksvoll energisch schritten die Streicherklänge durch das Andante, quasi als Vorbereitung auf das aufwühlende Finale. Dergestalt offen für die Musik der Insel, gelang den Tonkünstlern auch MacMillans "Zwischenspiele aus ‚The Sacrifice’". Diese Intermezzi entstanden 2007 kurz nach der Uraufführung seiner Bürgerkriegsoper an der walisischen Oper. Die Notwendigkeit eines friedvollen Miteinanders wurde trotz der Kürze der deutlich artikulierten Szenen offenbar. Das Publikum (viel Jugend kam) war begeistert.
Wiener Zeitung, September 2012

“It was left to James MacMillan in his Clemency … to give some reassurance that opera is, indeed, still possible in our century. His tale of a modern-day Abraham and Sarah, with their three mysterious Visitors, remains as cogent and moving as ever.”
Times, September 2012

James MacMillan conducts the Netherlands Radio Kamer Filharmonie and Vadim Repin in the Dutch premiere of his Violin Concerto
“[MacMillan] delivers a powerful and highly impressive concerto...[he] led the Radio Kamer Filharmonie in a really strong performance, and the orchestra played with great conviction and sensitivity.”
Bach Track, April 2012

James MacMillan conducts the Guildhall Symphony at the Barbican
“[In Prokofiev’s Romeo & Juliet suite] the various romantic, tragic and expressive characters shone through, with MacMillan calmly in control”
Bach Track, March 2012

EMI releases James MacMillan’s Seraph, performed by Alison Balsom
“The highlight is James MacMillan's "Seraph", with the assertive opening brio giving way to a more reflective Adagio dialogue between trumpet and violin, before emerging refreshed for the animated closing movement.”
Independent, January 2012

“[Seraph] deftly combines trumpet and strings in music that ranges from the incisiveness of its first movement, via the ‘seraphic’ plaintiveness of its lightly textured Adagio to the robust interplay of the finale. Balsom takes its not inconsiderable demands in her stride, with the Scottish Ensemble unstinting in its support.”
Gramophone, January 2012

“The MacMillan is a lovely work (particularly the second movement)”
Herald Scotland, January 2012

“More successful is James MacMillan’s witty Seraph, which nicely exploits the trumpet’s comedic potential alongside Balsom’s ability to spin a cantabile line. It’s surely destined to become a repertoire work.”
The Arts Desk, March 2012

Jean-Yves Thibaudet premieres James MacMillan’s Piano Concerto No. 3, The Mysteries of Light, with the Minnesota Orchestra under Osmo Vänska
“This exhilarating, readily accessible new work...should encourage other blazing performances. Given virtuoso pianists like Thibaudet, conductors like Vanska, and orchestras like the Minnesota, the piece should find a niche in the piano-orchestra repertoire – an alternative, perhaps, to the familiar Rachmaninoff and Ravel masterpieces.”
American Record Guide, July/August 2011

“The work, all 25 minutes of it, is a wild ride, overflowing with color and incident -- turbulent, incantatory and, at moments, luminous. MacMillan's keyboard writing calls for a dramatist and a poet, and it has both in Jean-Yves Thibaudet, whose playing spans the extremes of forcefulness and delicacy.”
Star Tribune, April 2011

“The dazzling and perplexing piece is the highlight of this weekend's concerts featuring pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet. The virtuosic 25-minute work could not have gotten a better premiere. There's no doubt that MacMillan knows his way around an orchestra. His score is a cascade of instrumental coloration. There were times, for instance, when the performance shimmered in a tingling shower of ethereal voices, though the more common sensation was shattering, overlapping sonic clashing.

The concerto also challenges the listener to accept two compositionally distinct voices simultaneously — the solo piano and the orchestra... The piano's voice is often eerily doubled by chimes, vibraphone or other instruments, creating a sonority that is at times tingling. In all, it's a masterfully challenging piece for performers and listeners.”
St Paul Pioneer Press, April 2011

MacMillan’s new chamber opera Clemency premieres at the Linbury Studio, Royal Opera House
“Less is more: in James MacMillan's music, every note counts. And never more so than in Clemency, the Scottish composer's brand-new chamber opera, which packs questions powerful, emotional, philosophical and religious into just 45 minutes. With his regular librettist Michael Symmons Roberts and the director Katie Mitchell, MacMillan has created a terrifically intense, focused and inspired musical work on a thought-provoking parable, updated to the present day.

The characterisation is unfailing: Sarah, sung by the marvellous Janis Kelly, has soaring, palpitating and plunging lines as her emotions are buffeted by fear and elation. Abraham, the full-toned Grant Doyle, is straightforward, humble but tenacious. The "triplets" are heard first in close harmony, almost as if with one voice at three pitches: an otherworldly sound, performed with frightening power by Adam Green, Eamonn Mulhall and Andrew Tortise.

But there's another character: the orchestra – the strings of the Britten Sinfonia, conducted by Clark Rundell. They play as if possessed in instrumental episodes that seem to argue the points, amplify the emotions and ratchet up the tension. These passages structure the score just as the three-part picture-frame structures the staging.”
Independent, five stars, May 2011

James MacMillan conducts his St John Passion with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
“James MacMillan’s intensely moving and dramatic setting of the St John Passion brings the whole raw, pathetic cruelty of Christ’s execution into stark reality.

Conducted by the composer, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus was joined by the 14-voice Colla Voce Singers and the baritone Christopher Maltman, for whom the work was originally written. Maltman’s raw energy, singing Christus, was dramatic and physical. His is a fine voice, with earthy power and edginess. The power of Tu es Petrus or the aching beauty of the Crucifixus etiam pro nobis – with decorative solos from orchestra principals – were moments which will be treasured in the memory.”
Liverpool Daily Post, April 2011

“MacMillan, who conducted last night’s concert at the Philharmonic Hall, has created a complex jigsaw which uses recognisable forms of liturgical chant, rousing choral interjections and celestial and dramatic orchestration, albeit within a 21st century musical framework.

The whole was underpinned by an adrenalin-filled orchestration, performed with calmness and absolute concentration by the Phil, and which included everything from a maelstrom of brass and percussion, to mystical chimes and honeyed strings.”
Liverpool Echo, April 2011

James MacMillan conducts his song cycle Raising Sparks in a concert of his own music at Carnegie Hall
“MacMillan conducted music that was ceaselessly inventive, evocative and penetrating. But the focal point was the Italian mezzo-soprano Christina Zavalloni, whose dramatic delivery and delirious presence turned a compelling composition into a theatrical tour de force.”
New York Times, March 2011

MacMillan’s Violin Concerto is performed at Carnegie Hall by Vadim Repin and the Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by Charles Dutoit
“The concerto, a 25-minute work in three movements, adheres loosely to historical conventions of form: a crackling opening movement (“Dance”) is followed with a more lyrical section (“Song”) and a finale filled with exuberant display (“Song and Dance”). The solo part’s torrential flurries and sweetly spun melodies are custom fitted to a virtuoso like Mr. Repin, to whom the work is dedicated. Mr MacMillan’s estimable mastery of orchestral timbre and effect is evident throughout.

Composed in memory of Mr MacMillan’s mother, who died in 2008, the concerto derives its considerable emotive impact from graceful and grotesque elements juxtaposed with a dreamy illogic. A bubbly Scottish reel breaks out at the first movement’s climax. In the second, the winsome solo lines flutter over elegiac oboe, guttural brass and dreamy, tuned percussion; a tender passage for piccolo and piano conjures an Irish folk song.

Audience response was rousing and sustained. Mr. Dutoit provided a sympathetic context for Mr MacMillan’s instrumental brilliance and heart-on-sleeve emotionalism.”
New York Times, March 2011

“The Violin Concerto is a big piece, with bold gestures and virtuosic flights. It can be as showy as a concerto from the 19th-century, and Repin confronted its challenges enthusiastically in a performance characterized by shining tone, precise intonation and impeccable technique...

The Violin Concerto makes for exhilarating and absorbing listening.”
Classical Review, March 2011

James MacMillan conducts the Britten Sinfonia and Nick Daniel in the world premiere performances of his Oboe Concerto
“Wonderfully virtuosic, superbly crafted for both solo instrument and orchestra and with enough enigmas and sardonic outbursts to keep posterity guessing, James MacMillan’s new Oboe Concerto is a corker. ... the Oboe Concerto starts with deceptive exuberance: after a syncopated minimalist riff in the violas, the oboe is off on a wild dance that manages to veer from exotic arabesques to a lush, even romantic lyricism without breaking stride.”
Times, October 2010

“Nicholas Daniel then performed MacMillan's new oboe concerto, written for this renowned soloist who is also a player in the Britten Sinfonia. In the opening "Marcato e ritmico", Daniel burst forth as if detonated, with powerful chromatic flurries and a propulsive amalgam of martial and Gaelic energy, strings trilling, glissando-ing and arpeggio-ing beneath him in multiple layers. Parallel worlds of soloist and ensemble at once meet and spin off on their own, not in combat but in dialogue.

In the slow movement, the wide, almost placid and murky sostenuto writing was like a dark lake out of which the oboe rose, keening and plaintive, as if a lone water bird. There is no programme to this piece, so such a suggestion should not be taken literally, only as an attempt to convey the relationship between soloist and ensemble. The finale, harsh, joky and elegiac, had the virtuosic Daniel forcing all his power and might through that tiny reed fit to burst. MacMillan's concerto offers a fiery addition to the solo oboe's confined repertoire.”
Observer, October 2010

James MacMillan conducts the Netherlands Radio Kamer Philharmonie in a recording of his Visitatio Sepulchri and Sun Dogs on BIS
“The composer’s intense conducting adds greatly to the impact of an extended piece in three scenes... Altogether a fine coupling of two superb works, a credit to the performers.”
Gramophone, August 2010

World premiere of MacMillan’s Violin Concerto with the London Symphony Orchestra, Vadim Repin and Valery Gergiev
“This action-packed crowd-pleaser is essentially a compendium of song and dance digging deep into the primitivism of the distant past to unlock memories much closer to the present. There are dizzying, spinning reels, dirges and sentimental plaints with the violin often hauntingly evoking the "vocal" melismas of Celtic folk singers. One moment the fiddler is urging the entire string section to shake a leg, the next he's in blissful repose with piano and piping piccolo lending a tearful consonance. Wild and wacky, dark and subversive, even brutal – what isn't in the mix? The audience adored it.”
Independent, May 2010

“The Concerto is written in memory of MacMillan's late mother, and at its centre is a reminiscence of childhood in which Repin picks out the shapes of Celtic folk songs that eventually coalesce into a heart-on-sleeve melody of striking elegance. The opening movement examines the violin's role in dance bands as Repin plays furious Scottish reels in succession. The darker finale juxtaposes swirling violin figurations with both plainchant and a German nursery rhyme declaimed by the orchestral players. Staggeringly difficult, it was a tour de force for Repin, and thrillingly done by Gergiev and the LSO.”
Guardian, May 2010

“As soloist Vadim Repin and conductor Valery Gergiev whirled us tumultuously through its hyperactive songs and dances, there was so much I wanted to savour, to hear again…

On one level it's a brilliant tour de force which does everything a virtuoso could wish, combining some of the fast, furious, fiddling reels complete with signature drum the bodhrán which are in MacMillan's musical DNA with the necessary chance to let the violin sing - and how, in Repin's dazzling, pitch-perfect performance.“
The Arts Desk, May 2010

“Plundering the fiddle tradition of his native Scotland, MacMillan infuses the first movement with jig-like energy and the second with a ruminative-rhapsodic-romantic tune, played in unison by soloist and orchestra before being carried skywards by piccolo (Sharon Williams) in an emotionally stirring vein…the orchestra has plenty of good music to play.

But it’s the solo part that inspires MacMillan to his most original touches…The violin negotiates a series of fiendishly fast and agitated progressions up the scale, creating waves of suppressed tension that are eased by interludes in a yearning vein. The final cadenza is in the finest classical tradition, testing the soloist’s virtuosity and musicianship to the extreme.”
Financial Times, May 2010

MacMillan conducts the Florida Orchestra
“The Florida Orchestra has done an excellent thing by bringing in Scottish composer James MacMillan to conduct not only his own music but also that of Ralph Vaughan Williams, an earlier British master with whom he clearly has a kinship.

MacMillan's Interludes opened the concert with a compact display of his gift for orchestral color, especially in the percussion writing. The way that moments of shimmering delicacy and precision were punctuated by mighty blasts in the brass and percussion reminded me of Shostakovich. The orchestra gave an alert performance for the composer, whose conducting style is clear and energetic.

Part of MacMillan's mission in coming to Florida was to spread the gospel of British music, and he succeeded splendidly on that score with Vaughan Williams' Symphony No.4... Amid the tumult there was a lush loveliness to the music under MacMillan's baton, as in the surprisingly gentle dissonance of the opening theme and the dreamy flute solo that ended the second movement. The frenetic finish left the audience in stunned silence before breaking into applause.”
St. Petersburg Times, November 2009

MacMillan conducts the Baltimore Symphony
“MacMillan brought obvious authority to the podium and drew some lively playing from the BSO strings in the concerto… The edgy, unpredictable qualities in MacMillan's music helped to reiterate just how edgy and unpredictable Beethoven could be, even in such an early symphony as this one. Every sudden dynamic shift in the latter recalled to mind all the surprises in the former... Beethoven's Second Symphony is particularly rich in potent ideas, as MacMillan illustrated in remarks to the audience before going on to produce a thoughtful, invigorating performance. He offered much more than mere traffic control, emphasizing the work's sinewy power and paying attention to the subtleties that give it so much character. The orchestra jumped into the action with impressive force.”
Baltimore Sun, April 2008

“For audiences who think they hate modern music, there's nothing to fear here… this music is wild stuff, but it's good, vigorous music and deserves to be performed by major ensembles... A scintillating reading of Beethoven's delightful but infrequently performed Symphony No. 2… The players executed Mr. MacMillan's sunny concept of the work with infectious enthusiasm, particularly in the quirky scherzo and the rousing finale.”
Washington Times, April 2008

MacMillan conducts the BBC Philharmonic
“A towering performance by the BBC Philharmonic under the composer James MacMillan. He is proving a conductor of daunting ability.”
Sunday Times, May 2003

“…an orchestral concert delivered with supreme confidence by the BBC Philharmonic under James MacMillan…given a conductor as attuned as MacMillan to large-scale drama as well as to immediacy of impact, and given an orchestra for whom no challenge is too much, the sheer élan of the writing was again hard to resist.”
Daily Telegraph, October 2004

"It was refreshing to find the BBC Philharmonic and Royal Northern College of Music collaborating on a small festival celebrating the music of the 54-year-old composer Poul Ruders. James Macmillan conducted the BBC Philharmonic, the fleet strings alternately fidgeting restlessly and drawing long, sweeping brush-strokes in music with defined, sculptural textures. Pointed woodwind added such colour that you hardly noticed the absence of percussion."
Independent, February 2006

Scotch Bestiary is full of a black vitality which always threatens to explode into pure chaos. ... It’s all brought off with tremendous zest by Wayne Marshall and the BBC Philharmonic under the composer’s direction; but they’re just as much at home in the contemplative, painfully affectionate parts of the Concerto.”
BBC Music Magazine, Proms 2006

“MacMillan himself conducted the BBC Philharmonic for Saturday’s Pickaquoy Centre performance of his own The Confession of Isobel Gowdie. Sixteen years on from the performances that established his name, the composer produced a seamless, swift account of the score.”
The Herald, June 2006

“Composers who turn to conducting aren’t always successful, but James MacMillan is emerging as a strong, assured interpreter of his own music, and the Chandos recordings do him full justice.”
BBC Music Magazine, September 2003

The BBC Symphony Orchestra MacMillan weekend at the Barbican
“…the great virtue of these marvellous BBC composer weekends [is that] they allow us to roam around a composer’s inner world, and see how it changes over time, and how the elements acquire weight and subtlety. Of course that’s only valuable if the composer in question really has conjured a world worth getting to know, and this weekend made it clear MacMillan is one of the few British composers who have.”
Daily Telegraph, January 2005

"I wish I knew what James MacMillan eats for breakfast. With 120 compositions already under his belt, the flying Scot is writing music with as much fervour and ingenuity as anyone on the planet. As was amply demonstrated by this BBC weekend devoted to his music, his passion and energy seem inexhaustible... he is, paradoxically, the most powerful voice in British music today - by a mile. Though fused from a thousand diverse sacred and secular influences, his pieces are instantly recognisable, intellectually coherent, fizzing with ideas, gloriously coloured, and without a whiff of pretension or obfuscation. And who knows how his imagination will ripen, darken or deepen in the years ahead. After all, he is only 45."
Times, January 2005

"The BBC Symphony Chorus crackled with vigour and crisp enunciation: a tribute to their talent and drilling, and MacMillan's early gift for the immediate, dramatic and emotional."
Times, January 2005

"...[MacMillan's] music has an immense heat and appetite, seizing hold of other musical references and bending them to it's will."
Daily Telegraph, January 2005

“James MacMillan’s Cantos Sagrados, combining poems concerning political repression in Latin America with liturgical texts in Latin, is surely among the best products of his first flood of inspiration. It is characteristically raw and derivative in places, but also occasionally ravishing, and full of integrity.”
Independent, January 2006

These are featured projects related to James MacMillan:

Worklist Highlights
Worklist Highlights Oboe Concerto Oboe Concerto (2009-10) For oboe and orchestra. Written for Britten Sinfonia and Nicholas Daniel The concerto is 23 minutes long and scored for 2.0.corA.2.1.dbn- Click here for a link to the publisher. Hear an extract of James MacMillan conducting the world premiere of the work with Nicholas Daniel and Britten Sinfonia at Birmingham Town Hall:

LSO Artist Portrait
JAMES MACMILLAN: 2009/10 Artist Portrait with the London Symphony Orchestra The London Symphony Orchestra presents an Artist Portrait of James MacMillan throughout the 2009/10 season. To coincide with the composer’s 50th birthday, the LSO explores a range of his output, including the St John Passion, which the Orchestra and Sir Colin Davis premiered in April 2008. The Portrait season was opened with a concert conducted by...

St John Passion
James MacMillan's ST JOHN PASSION World premiere, 27 April 2008 Barbican Hall, London Sir Colin Davis conductor London Symphony Orchestra Christopher Maltman baritone Narrator Chorus | London Symphony Chrous MEDIA Click on the link below to hear James MacMillan discussing his St John Passion with Sandy Burnett: Hear an extract from the LSO Live recording of the St John Passion, 'The arrest of Jesus': Hear an...


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Artist News

More James MacMillan news

  • James MacMillan conducts his Violin Concerto with Vadim Repin and the Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonie at the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, in May 2012: