Sir 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 close to 500 performances, a cello concerto for Mstislav Rostropovich and four symphonies.
Recent major works include his Percussion Concerto No.2 for Colin Currie, cocommissioned by the Philharmonia Orchestra, Edinburgh International Festival, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, São Paulo Symphony Orchestra and Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music and, most recently, his Trombone Concerto, written for Jörgen van Rijen, which was premiered by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Iván Fischer.
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 has conducted orchestras such as the National Symphony Orchestra Washington, Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Munich Philharmonic, Vienna Radio Symphony, Danish Radio Symphony, Gothenburg Symphony, Bergen Philharmonic, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, BBC Scottish Symphony, Toronto Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and NHK Symphony Orchestra among others. He was Principal Guest Conductor of the Netherlands Radio Kamer Filharmonie until 2013 and Composer/Conductor of the BBC Philharmonic from 2000-09.
Highlights of 2019/20 include a major feature at Edinburgh International Festival as part of his 60th birthday year, with performances of works such as Quickening, A Scotch Bestiary, Woman of the Apocalypse and the world premiere of MacMillan’s Symphony No.5 'Le grand inconnu', alongside which MacMillan conducts his Symphony No.2. Elsewhere MacMillan also conducts Cincinnati Symphony, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Trondheim Symphony, Flemish Radio Choir and Tallinn Chamber Orchestra in the presence of Arvo Pärt. He continues as Young Composer Mentor with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, culminating in a concert conducted by MacMillan at Southbank Centre. MacMillan’s 60th birthday is celebrated widely, and his music is featured at the Three Choirs Festival, BBC Proms, Cincinnati May Festival and Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival, where The Sixteen and Britten Sinfonia perform the US premiere of his Stabat Mater.
MacMillan founded his music festival, The Cumnock Tryst, in October 2014, which takes place annually in his native Ayrshire. MacMillan was awarded a CBE in 2004 and a Knighthood in 2015.
MacMillan has directed many of his own works on disc for Chandos, BIS and BMG, most recently a series on Challenge Records including MacMillan’s violin concerto A Deep but Dazzling Darkness and percussion concerto Veni, Veni, Emmanuel with Colin Currie and the Netherlands Radio Kamer Filharmonie. His recent release on Harmonia Mundi conducting Britten Sinfonia included his Oboe Concerto and won the 2016 BBC Music Magazine Award; in 2017 The Sixteen’s recording of MacMillan’s Stabat Mater was nominated for a Gramophone Award and won the Diapason d'Or Choral Award.