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Sir James MacMillan


Sir James MacMillan is one of today’s most successful composers and performs internationally 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 recognized 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 the percussion concerto Veni, Veni, Emmanuel, which has received close to 500 performances, a cello concerto for Mstislav Rostropovich and five symphonies. Recent major works include his Percussion Concerto No. 2 for Colin Currie, Violin Concerto No. 2 for Nicola Benedetti and his Symphony No. 5, written for the Sixteen, which was premiered at the Edinburgh International Festival in 2019, as part of a major feature to celebrate his 60th birthday year.

MacMillan enjoys a successful 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 Rotterdam Philharmonic, Munich Philharmonic, Danish Radio Symphony, Gothenburg Symphony, Bergen Philharmonic, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, Frankfurt Radio Symphony, St Louis Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, 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 until 2009.

Highlights of the 2023-24 season include conducting the U.K. premiere of MacMillan’s Fiat Lux with BBC Symphony and Chorus and the Scottish premiere of his Christmas Oratorio with Royal Scottish National Orchestra; elsewhere he conducts the Estonian National Symphony, Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, Tampere Philharmonic, BBC Scottish Symphony. A number of new works receive premieres, including Ordo Virtutum with MDR Radio Choir in Leipzig, a new work for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, and commissioned specially to celebrate Sir Mark Elder’s final concerts as music director, the Hallé Orchestra give the U.K. premiere of a major choral-orchestral work Timotheus, Bacchus and Cecilia.