Sir James MacMillan's Stabat Mater is first piece to be livestreamed from the Sistine Chapel
Sir James MacMillan’s Stabat Mater becomes the first work to be live-streamed from the Sistine Chapel when it receives its Vatican premiere on 22 April 2018. The video will be also available on Classic FM’s website for one month after the performance.
The Vatican premiere is given by The Sixteen and strings of the Britten Sinfonia conducted by Harry Christophers, as The Sixteen become first professional British choir to sing at the Sistine Chapel in over 20 years.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster says:
"The Stabat Mater is a remarkable prayer. It expresses a burning desire for a share in the sufferings of Mary and Jesus. In this it stands in sharp contrast to our contemporary reaction to suffering, which is to flee whilst tossing blame over our shoulder. But this prayer begs for an active share in this suffering. It cries out a willingness, out of love, to stand by those who are suffering, taking their pain into our hearts. It is, radically and remarkably, a mother’s prayer. The composition of James McMillan powerfully explores the intensity and drama of this prayer. Its performance in the Sistine Chapel will be an experience never to be forgotten."
Stabat Mater was commissioned by the Genesis Foundation and since its premiere in 2016 has toured in England and received performances in Scotland and the Netherlands, and the premiere recording released on CORO won the 2017 Diapason d’Or for Choral Music.
Sir James MacMillan's Saxophone Concerto receives world premiere from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra
The Scottish Chamber Orchestra give the world premiere performances of Sir James MacMillan’s Saxophone Concerto on 11 April 2018. The concerto was written for Amy Dickson, who joins conductor Joseph Swenson for three performances at Horsecross Perth Concert Hall on 11 April, Usher Hall, Edinburgh, on 12 April, and Glasgow City Halls on 13 April. MacMillan joins the orchestra for pre-concert talks before every performance.
The Saxophone Concerto is co-commissioned by the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, who give the Australian premiere in August 2018.
Sir James MacMillan conducts his St Luke Passion in return to the Danish National Symphony Orchestra
Sir James MacMillan returns to the Danish National Symphony Orchestra on 29 March 2018 to conduct his St Luke Passion. MacMillan conducts the orchestra and the Danish National Concert and Junior Choirs at Copenhagen Konserthuset before travelling to Brussels to perform the work on Good Friday as part of the Klara Festival at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels.
St Luke Passion is MacMillan's second passion and was premiered at Amsterdam's Concertgebouw in March 2014 to critical acclaim:
"MacMillan’s musical language is crystal clear. Musically wrenching sounds combine seamlessly with a sonorous and eminently singable discourse. The modest orchestral forces provide some wonderful effects with diffuse chords, subtle veils of sound and ominous timpani pounding..."
Sir James MacMillan conducts Irish premiere of Stabat Mater in New Music Dublin residency
Sir James MacMillan returns to Ireland this month to begin a residency at New Music Dublin on 1 March 2018. During the residency, MacMillan conducts the Irish premieres of two of his works. On 1 March he joins the RTÉ Concert Orchestra on at the National Concert Hall to conduct Credo, and the following day he conducts the Irish premiere of his Stabat Mater at St Ann's Church.
MacMillan’s Stabat Mater was premiered by the Sixteen and Britten Sinfonia in October 2016, and the debut recording won the 2017 Diapason d’Or award for Choral Music:
"It's stunningly composed and also magnificently performed"
Times, March 2017
MacMillan then travels to St Andrews where he takes part in the Theoartistry Festival, a culmination of the TheoArtistry Composer' Scheme overseen by MacMillan.
Sir James MacMillan's Trombone Concerto receives US premiere from the Dallas Symphony Orchestra
Sir James MacMillan's Trombone Concerto receives its US premiere in four performances at Morton H Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas on 15 to 18 February 2018. Jorgen van Rijen joins the Dallas Symphony and conductor Gustavo Gimeno for the US premiere, the second commissioned performance of the work. Van Rijen gave the world premiere of the work at Amsterdam's Concertgebouw in April 2017 to critical acclaim.
"The new work proved to be vintage MacMillan. There’s a wonderful mixture of timbres, sacral glowing melodies, rich chording and ear-splitting eruptions of sound – all in a kaleidoscopic form with a unifying hymn theme… it works in MacMillan’s hands, perhaps because of the magical orchestration, in which liquid woodwinds drip through a fine sonic mesh of harp and vibraphone. Or where unusual echoes follow one another in strings, piano and harp. Or when sudden apocalyptic cacophony emerges from percussion, brass and a siren."
MacMillan’s Trombone Concerto is co-commissioned by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Royal Flemish Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchestra de la Suisse Romande, Oulu Symphony Orchestra, Dallas Symphony Association and Staatstheater Cottbus. MacMillan will conduct the Belgian premiere of the work in November 2018.
Intermusica at the Barbican Centre's 2018/19 classical season
The Barbican Centre revealed its classical music season for 2018/19 on 23 January 2018, and as ever there are many Intermusica artists performing over the season. Highlights include Daniil Trifonov's London Symphony Orchestra Artist Portrait, the visit of Sir Antonio Pappano and the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia to perform Mahler Symphony No.6 and Sir John Eliot Gardiner's return to the LSO. See below for full details.
Daniil Trifonov is the subject of the LSO's Artist Portrait next season. The Portrait begins in February 2019 when he performs Ravel Piano Concerto with the orchestra and Sir Simon Rattle, and continues in June with a performance of Beethoven Piano Concerto No.5 and a solo recital of works by Beethoven and Prokofiev. It culminates on 16 June with a performance of Shostakovich Concerto No.1 for piano, trumpet and strings.
On 29 September 2018, Ben Gernon conducts the BBC Symphony Orchestra in a performance of Holst The Planets, presented by scientist and broadcaster Professor Brian Cox.
Sir James MacMillan's All the Hills and Vales Along receives its world premiere from the London Symphony Orchestra and Simon Halsey's London Symphony Chorus on 4 November and forms part of the Barbican Centre's series of events commemorating the First World War. Earlier that day, the piece is the focus of an LSO Discovery Day, during which members of the public can attend a morning LSO rehearsal of the MacMillan premiere followed by chamber music and a discussion about creative responses to World War I.
Martyn Brabbins is also involved in the First World War anniversary, conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra in the world premiere of Cheryl Frances-Hood's Last Man Standing, part of a programme that also includes Bax November Woods and Vaughan Williams Symphony No.4.
Marin Alsop returns to the Barbican on 4 December to continue the Bernstein at 100 celebrations with a concert performance of the composer's Candide. Leonardo Capalbo stars in the title role.
Leonidas Kavakos makes two appearances at the Barbican during the 2018/19 season. In September he joins Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax in bringing their critically acclaimed Brahms Piano Trios to the Barbican Hall. In December, he renews his relationship with Sir Simon Rattle and the LSO when he performs Brahms Violin Concerto.
James Ehnes returns to the Barbican on 18 January 2019, performing Beethoven Violin Concerto with the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
Mary Bevan joins John Butt and the BBC Symphony Orchestra to perform Bach's B minor Mass on 2 February, singing with her sister Sophie Bevan, tenor Samuel Boden and bass-baritone Edward Grint.
Sir John Eliot Gardiner continues his fruitful collaboration with the London Symphony Orchestra in February, conducting two concerts of works by Weber, Mendelssohn and Schumann. Gardiner is joined by soloists Isabelle Faust, Kristian Bezuidenhout and Piotr Anderszewski.
Lahav Shani joins the LSO in February, alongside pianist Simon Trpčeski, for a concert of Weill, Rachmaninov and Stravinsky.
Nora Fischer joins the BBC Symphony Orchestra and conductor Joana Carneiro in concert on 11 May, performing as soprano soloist in the UK premiere of Golijov Oceana.
Intermusica brings the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia to the Barbican on 25 May for a concert with their Music Director, Sir Antonio Pappano.
Kian Soltani performs at LSO St Luke's in June, as part of the ECHO Rising Stars tour, for which he was nominated by the Wiener Konzerthaus and Wiener Musikverein.
Intermusica artists featured in Best of 2017 critics' picks
At the end of each year we look forward to reading critics’ musical highlights from the last 12 months; we’re delighted to see many of our artists featured in a host of such round-ups.
A standout achievement of the year was Sir John Eliot Gardiner’s Monteverdi 450 tour, which was praised globally. The tour commemorated the 450th anniversary of the composer’s death and visited the Berlin Festival, Philharmonie de Paris, the new National Forum of Music in Wrocław, and the Salzburg, Edinburgh International and Lucerne festivals, as well as Bristol’s Colston Hall, Aix-en-Provence, Barcelona’s Palau de la Música Catalana and a historic residency at Teatro La Fenice in Venice, the composer's adopted home. Hugh Canning in the Sunday Times praised it as “dazzling”, while it was also chosen as one of the highlights of the year by the Guardian and Alex Ross of the New Yorker, who praised the “deft, vivid” productions that confirmed that “the first great opera composer remains the master of the game.” It was also chosen by the Herald Scotland, The Arts Desk, New York Classical Review and Chicago Classical Review.
Another highlight was the world premiere run of Brett Dean’s Hamlet at Glyndebourne Festival Opera. Hugh Canning picked it as his operatic highlight of the year in the Sunday Times, and it also featured in round-ups in the Evening Standard, The Arts Desk and The Stage.
Hugh Canning also praised David Butt Philip’s “searing” performance in Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius with Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé.
Nicholas Collon’s Prom with his Aurora Orchestra, in which he conducted Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony from memory, was chosen as one of the Evening Standard’s highlights of the classical year, as was the Leipzig Gewandhausorchester’s visit to London. The orchestra’s performance at the Barbican featured Intermusica artists Leonidas Kavakos and Kirill Gerstein performing Beethoven’s Triple Concerto, and was part of the orchestra’s 275th anniversary tour, which Intermusica brought to Europe and Asia.
Several Intermusica artists also featured in The Arts Desk’s round-up of the best concerts and opera performances. In the concert round-up, Mark Wigglesworth’s Prom with the BBC Philharmonic was highlighted thanks to a “miraculous” performance of Haydn Symphony No.99. Kian Soltani was highly praised for his performance of Strauss Don Quixote at the Southbank Centre with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, with The Arts Desk writing that it was “quite the most vivid” critic David Nice had heard live. Nice also cited HK Gruber for his performance as conductor and chansonnier in his Frankenstein!! at the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra’s composer festival.
In The Arts Desk’s opera round-up, Martyn Brabbins’ performance of Harrison Birtwistle’s The Last Supper with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra “kicked off the year in thoughtful, complex style”, while David Nice also gave special mention to Wallis Giunta, writing that she was the “young singer of the year in my books” for her performances in L'enfant et les sortileges and Trouble in Tahiti in Opera North's well-received Little Greats series of one-act operas. Giunta was also named 'Breakthrough Artist in UK Opera' in the WhatsOnStage Opera Poll.
Meanwhile, Sir John Eliot Gardiner’s new recording of Bach St Matthew Passion, made with the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists, was chosen as one of Gramophone’s Critics’ Choice, as was Boris Giltburg’s account of Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No.2 with Carlos Miguel Prieto and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.
Composer and music writer Robert Hugill picked John Wilson’s recording of Walton’s Façade as one of his top recordings of the year. Also featured were Sir James MacMillan’s “powerful” Stabat Mater and Martyn Brabbins’ latest entry in the Romantic Piano Concerto series for Hyperion, this time featuring the piano concertos of Roger Sacheverell Coke.
The Pavel Haas Quartet once again found great critical success with their latest CD, which featured Dvorák Piano and String Quintets and was made with Boris Giltburg and founder and former member Pavel Nikl. The album was chosen as one of the records of the year by the Boston Globe and WQXR.
Sir James MacMillan’s Stabat Mater with The Sixteen wins Diapason d’Or for Choral Music
The Sixteen’s and Britten Sinfonia’s recording of Sir James MacMillan’s Stabat Mater has been awarded the 2017 Diapason d’Or de L’année for Choral Music at their annual awards in Paris on 22 November 2017.
MacMillan’s setting of the Stabat Mater was commissioned by the Genesis Foundation for Harry Christophers and The Sixteen and received its world premiere in October 2016 at London’s Barbican Centre. It was released on The Sixteen’s own label, Coro, in March 2017 to critical appraisal:
"It's stunningly composed and also magnificently performed"
The Times, March 2017
"It’s a devastatingly powerful evocation of Mary’s agony, balancing impassioned choral writing with equally intense, occasionally violent, work for the strings of the Britten Sinfonia... Wonderfully sung; profoundly moving."
Observer, March 2017
Speaking about the piece, Harry Christophers commented:
"This is very much the culmination of a fifteen-year association between The Sixteen and James MacMillan... Sixty years after Poulenc’s powerful setting, we are witness to a new and equally personal work which encapsulates the power of the poem in a way no other composer has done to date."
Sir James MacMillan: World premieres from the Gulbenkian Orchestra and Pittsburgh Symphony
Two of Sir James MacMillan's works receive their world premieres this month, starting with The Sun Danced on 13 October 2017. The Gulbenkian Orchestra premiere the new work, which is composed for soprano, chorus and orchestra. The premiere takes place at the Sanctuary of Fatima, exactly 100 years after the the divine visitations there – The Miracle of the Sun. The texts for the 15 minute work are taken from the Apparitions of the Angel and of Our Lady, and also from documented verbal expressions from members of the crowd present at the Miracle of the Sun. The work is written in three languages – Latin, English and Portuguese and also includes texts from hymns associated with Fátima – Sanctissimae Trinitatis and Ave Theotokos.
On 27 October MacMillan’s tenure as the Pittsburgh Symphony’s Composer of the Year culminates in the world premiere of Larghetto for Orchestra, a new orchestration of his Miserere. The world premiere performance is conducted by Manfred Honeck.
Nine Intermusica artists nominated at the 40th Gramophone Awards
Nine Intermusica artists have been nominated for Gramophone Awards this year across a range of categories. The winners will be announced at the awards ceremony on 13 September, which will be live streamed on Medici.tv. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Gramophone Awards.
Sir John Eliot Gardiner is nominated in the Baroque Vocal category for his recording of Bach St Matthew Passion with the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists. Gramophone described the recording as "a memorable and moving St Matthew... What really makes this one special, however, is its emotional integrity."
James Ehnes is nominated alongside his colleagues in the Ehnes Quartet in the Chamber category for their recording of Schubert String Quartet No.14 'Death and the Maiden' and Sibelius Intimate Voices. Gramophone commented that "[the] pairing of these two quartets is a stroke of programming genius... I never would have thought of putting these two works together, but in this group’s hands it has resulted in something wonderful."
Paul McCreesh's new recording of Haydn's The Seasons made with the Wrocław Baroque Orchestra and Gabrieli Consort and Players is nominated in the Choral category. McCreesh previously received a Gramophone award for his 2006 recording of Haydn's The Creation. In their review, Gramophone wrote that "McCreesh and his massed Anglo-Polish forces have given us a Seasons that thrillingly catches both the work’s bucolic exhilaration and its invocations of the sublime. And for sheer sonic splendour it’s in a class of its own."
Sir James MacMillan's Stabat Mater, recorded by Harry Christophers and the Sixteen, is nominated in the Contemporary category. Gramophone's review concluded that "Posterity might well judge this to be a 21st-century masterpiece; there is no question that this is a truly masterly recorded performance."
Also nominated in the Contemporary category is Renaud Capuçon, whose disc of three 21st century violin concertos has also been shortlisted. The three concertos, all written for Capuçon, were recorded with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, and Gramophone praised Capuçon’s "probing playing [and] his welcome advocacy".
Daniil Trifonov is nominated in the Instrumental category for Transcendental, his recording of Liszt's works for solo piano. Gramophone praised the recording as a "triumph", commenting that "every decent record collection should have at least one version of all four sets of these studies. It is quite a feat for a single pianist to deliver what are, in effect, top-of-the-pile performances of almost all of the 23 separate titles – but that is what Trifonov offers."
Leo Hussain is nominated in the Opera category for Opus Arté's DVD of the revival of Fiona Shaw's Glyndebourne production of Britten The Rape of Lucretia. Gramophone singled him out for his "lyrical yet incisive" approach, writing that "conductor Leo Hussain gets finely detailed playing from his LPO instrumentalists, with every flicker of colour speaking volumes."
Roger Vignoles is nominated in the Solo Vocal category alongisde baritone Florian Boesch for their recording of Krenek's cycle Reisebuch aus den österreichischen Alpen. Vignoles was praised by Gramophone for his playing of "great control, refinement and subtlety", while the recording itself was proclaimed "an outstanding achievement."
Mary Bevan joined tenor Allan Clayton for his album Where'er You Walk, a collection of arias Handel composed for tenor John Beard, which is nominated in the Recital category. Bevan sings on 'As steals the morn', which Gramophone described as an "added bonus... it's a very attractive package."
Sir James MacMillan features at the inaugural International Forum of Composers at the Enescu Festival
Sir James MacMillan travels to Bucharest this month to join the inaugural International Forum of Composers at the 2017 Enescu Festival from 3 September 2017. The Forum brings together some of contemporary music's most influential composers and provide a venue for them to share their views and perspectives.
MacMillan joins fellow contemporary composers including Magnus Lindberg and Jorg Widmann at the Forum, and leads a conference on Compositional processes today on 10 September at the National University of Music Bucharest.
Elsewhere at the Festival MacMillan's Violin Concerto is performed by Vadim Repin and the Russian National Orchestra on 5 September.
Sir James MacMillan appointed as London Philharmonic Orchestra’s Young Composer Mentor
Sir James MacMillan has been appointed as the Young Composer Mentor of London Philharmonic Orchestra for the 2017/18 season. The season-long appointment will see MacMillan mentor five young composers, who are as yet un-published, in a series of seminars and workshops across the year culminating in the orchestra’s Debut Sounds concert, conducted by MacMillan, showcasing their new works.
MacMillan continues his fruitful relationship with the orchestra, who gave the world premiere of MacMillan’s Viola Concerto with Vladimir Jurowski and soloist Lawrence Power in 2014.
Sir James MacMillan makes conducting debut at the Edinburgh International Festival
Sir James MacMillan conducts the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in his Edinburgh International Festival debut at Usher Hall on 19 August 2017. MacMillan has a long and fruitful relationship with the festival and to celebrate the Festival’s 70th anniversary he conducts three masterpieces of 20th-century music, all of which received their premieres in Edinburgh.
The programme features MacMillan Epiclesis, which was premiered in 1993 when MacMillan was featured composer at the Festival. They will be joined for this performance by Ole Edvard Antonsen as soloist.
The programme also includes Tippett Fantasia Concertante on a Theme of Corelli and Walton Symphony No.2.
Sir James MacMillan's A European Requiem receives European premiere at BBC Proms
Sir James MacMillan's A European Requiem receives its European premiere at the BBC Proms on 30 July 2017. The BBC National Orchestra of Wales are conducted by Xian Zhang for the performance at Royal Albert Hall, joined by the CBSO Chorus and soloists Iestyn Davies and Intermusica’s Jacques Imbrailo.
MacMillan has described the work as non-liturgical and an attempt "to fuse the Requiem with symphonic form in a single continuous movement, moving between the sections of text via linking orchestral episodes.” A European Requiem received its world premiere at Oregon Bach Festival in 2016 to critical acclaim:
"... the effect was one of coruscating brilliance... the tremolo strings died away, the bass drum delivered a steady series of quiet heartbeat-like pulsations that faded away to silence. No one made a sound for several seconds. It seems that most audience members, like this one, found the experience breathtaking."
The Register-Guard, July 2016
"... A European Requiem is a mature, reflective, deeply moving work by a constantly engaging contemporary composer... it also feels like a very human response to a godlike question – a resolute grappling, like Jacob wrestling with the angel. At the end, listeners understand they’ve undertaken a journey, and it’s been a profound one."
Oregon Arts Watch, July 2016
Colin Currie & Sir James MacMillan perform MacMillan percussion concertos in New Zealand Symphony Orchestra tour
Colin Currie and Sir James MacMillan return to the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra this July for a two-week tour from 6 July 2017, performing both MacMillan Veni, Veni, Emmanuel and Percussion Concerto No.2. Veni, Veni, Emmanuel is one of MacMillan's most performed works with over 500 performances since its 1992 premiere given by Dame Evelyn Glennie and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. Percussion Concerto No.2 was written for Currie, who gave its world premiere with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic in 2014.
On 6, 7 and 8 July Currie gives the New Zealand premiere of Percussion Concerto No.2, conducted by MacMillan, in Hamilton, Auckland and Wellington. The programme is completed by Adès Polaris and Vaughan Williams Symphony No.4. They then join the New Zealand Symphony Youth Orchestra for two performances of Veni, Veni, Emmanuel in Wellington and Auckland on 14 and 15 July. MacMillan also conducts the world premiere of works by two young New Zealand composers, Celeste Oram and Reuben Jelleyman, and mentors the participants of the NZSO Todd Corporation Young Composers Awards.
Sir James MacMillan conducts Royal Liverpool Philharmonic in celebration of Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral's 50th anniversary
Sir James MacMillan returns to the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic to conduct his Gloria in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral on 10 June 2017. MacMillan also conducts the orchestra in performances of Messiaen Les Offrandes Oubliées, Poulenc Gloria and Ian Stephens The World in One City. MacMillan is joined for the concert by fellow Intermusica artist Mary Bevan, who performs as soprano soloist in Poulenc Gloria.
MacMillan's Gloria was premiered in 2012 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the consecration of Coventry Cathedral and was written specifically for tenor soloist Ian Bostridge, who joins the orchestra for this performance.
MacMillan's last performance with the RLPO came in 2015, when he conducted the orchestra in a critically-acclaimed performance of his Little Mass:
“A masterpiece of choral and orchestral writing which courageously and wonderfully expresses the fear of faith, the terrors as well as the comforts of belief, and spiritual darkness as well as light.”
Times, April 2015
“Many of MacMillan’s effects were strikingly original, including a passage of un-pitched, non-metrical whispering; and a stratospheric ascent on Hosanna in Excelsis that felt like the highest praise of all.”
Guardian, April 2015
Intermusica at the 2017 BBC Proms
The BBC announced the line-up for the 2017 Proms on 20 April 2017, and as ever Intermusica artists and orchestras play a leading role in the festival. Every Prom is broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and on the BBC website, with select concerts broadcast on BBC television live or at a later date.
Simon Halsey’s Proms Youth Choir give the opening concert of the Proms on 14 July, performing John Adams Harmonium alongside the BBC Symphony Chorus and BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Edward Gardner.
Joshua Weilerstein makes his debut at the Proms on 19 July, conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra at 7.30pm the Royal Albert Hall. Weilerstein conducts a programme of Rebel Les élémens – le chaos, Berlioz Symphonie fantastique and Pascal Dusapin’s cello concerto Outscape, for which he is joined by his sister, cellist Alisa Weilerstein.
Nicholas Collon and his Aurora Orchestra return to the Proms to perform another symphony from memory at 7.30pm on 22 July. This time, they perform Beethoven Symphony No.3 ‘Eroica’, preceded by an introduction from Tom Service accompanied by excerpts from Collon and the orchestra. The programme for the concert also includes Strauss Metamorphosen.
John Wilson makes the first of two appearances at this year’s Proms at 6.30pm on 25 July when he performs with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. Wilson, the orchestra’s Associate Guest Conductor, leads the orchestra in a programme of Vaughan Williams Symphony No.9 and Holst The Planets.
Christopher Purves also makes two appearances at the Proms this year, with his first coming on 27 July. Purves joins Juanjo Mena, the BBC Philharmonic and the Crouch End Festival Chorus to perform the London premiere of Mark Simpson The Immortal, an oratorio inspired by Victorian séances.
Mark Wigglesworth is joined by pianist Stephen Hough and the BBC Philharmonic at 7.30pm on 29 July to perform Brahms Piano Concerto No.1, David Sawyer The Greatest Happiness on Earth and Haydn Symphony No.99.
Sir James MacMillan’s European Requiem receives its European premiere at the Proms at 7pm on 30 July from the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and conductor Xian Zhang, with Jacques Imbrailo performing as the baritone soloist.
Sir John Eliot Gardiner returns to the Proms on 2 August with the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists, this time for a late night Prom at the Royal Albert Hall at 10.15pm. Gardiner conducts his ensembles in a performance of cantatas by Bach and Schütz.
Sir John Eliot Gardiner makes his second Proms appearance of the year at 7.30pm on 8 August, this time conducting the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique in a performance of Berlioz La damnation du Faust.
Lise Davidsen makes her debut at the Proms at 7.30pm on 10 August with the BBC Philharmonic and John Storgårds. Davidsen joins the orchestra to perform Sibelius Luonnotar and extracts from Grieg Peer Gynt.
John Wilson’s second Proms appearance this year comes on 11 August when his John Wilson Orchestra returns for its annual concert. This year, Wilson leads the orchestra in two performances of Rogers & Hammerstein Oklahoma!, at 2pm and 7.30pm.
Christopher Purves joins the London Symphony Orchestra and Sir Simon Rattle for a performance of Schoenberg Gurrelieder at 7.30pm on 19 August. Also performing are three of Simon Halsey’s choruses – City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus, London Symphony Chorus and Orfeó Català. Halsey also leads a Gurrelieder Proms Extra Sing Day at London Imperial College earlier that day.
Tim Mead returns to the Proms alongside John Butt and the Dunedin Consort for the third concert of the Proms’ Reformation Day at 7.45pm on 20 August. Mead follows last year’s Bach Mass in B minor with Bach St John Passion, singing alongside a cast that also includes Sophie Bevan, Nicholas Mulroy, Matthew Brook and Andrew Tortise.
Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Beyond the Score® appears at the Proms at 7.30pm on 23 August, with a performance of Dvorák Symphony No.9 ‘From the New World’ given by the Hallé Orchestra and Sir Mark Elder alongside a multi-media exploration of the symphony directed by Beyond the Score founder Gerard McBurney.
Leonidas Kavakos reunites with Riccardo Chailly at 6.30pm on 25 August, as Intermusica bring the conductor and his Filarmonica della Scala to the Proms to perform Brahms and Respighi. Kavakos joins the orchestra for Brahms Violin Concerto, which is followed by Respighi Fountains of Rome and Pines of Rome.
Joélle Harvey returns to the Proms as Glyndebourne’s production of Mozart La clemenza di Tito comes to the Royal Albert Hall at 7pm on 28 August. Harvey takes the role of Servilia, with accompaniment from the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and Robin Ticciati.
Intermusica is delighted to bring the Oslo Philharmonic and Vasily Petrenko to the Proms at 7.30pm on 29 August. Petrenko conducts the orchestra in an all-Russian programme of Stravinsky The Firebird (1919 version), Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No.4 and Shostakovich Symphony No.12.
The Freiburg Baroque Orchestra bring an all-Mendelssohn programme to the Proms this year from 1pm on 3 September. Conducted by Pablo Heras-Casado, the orchestra perform Mendelssohn Hebrides Overture, Violin Concerto with Isabelle Faust and Symphony No.5
Ben Johnson joins Sakari Oramo, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and an international cast of soloists for the Last Night of the Proms on 9 September. The Last Night begins from 7.15pm and will be broadcast live on BBC Two, and Johnson sings Kodály Te Deum.
Sir James MacMillan's Trombone Concerto receives world premiere from Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and Jörgen van Rijen
Sir James MacMillan’s Trombone Concerto receives its world premiere on 20 April 2017 in a performance by Jörgen van Rijen and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. Performed under the baton of Ivan Fischer, the new concerto is repeated on 21 and 23 April at the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam. MacMillan conducts the Belgian premiere of the concerto later this year.
MacMillan’s Trombone Concerto is co-commissioned by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Royal Flemish Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchestra de la Suisse Romande, Oulu Symphony Orchestra, Dallas Symphony Association and Staatstheater Cottbus. Its world premiere performance comes soon after that of his Concertino for Horn & Strings, given by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Andrew Manze in March.
Sir James MacMillan conducts Scottish orchestras in Scotland-wide MacMillan Celebration
Sir James MacMillan conducts the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Symphony Orchestra in March 2017 under the banner of the Scotland-wide MacMillan Celebration. This focus on his music sees nine concerts in Glasgow, including four Scottish premieres, and a range of talks and educational events. The participating orchestras and ensembles are also touring their concerts to Edinburgh, Perth, Aberdeen, St Andrews and Ayr.
MacMillan conducts the Scottish Chamber Orchestra in concerts on 23 and 24 March, in Edinburgh Queen’s Hall and Glasgow City Halls respectively. MacMillan conducts the orchestra in his Tryst, which was premiered by the orchestra in 1989, before The Sixteen and Harry Christophers take the helm after the interval for the Scottish premiere of MacMillan’s Stabat Mater, written for the ensemble and premiered in October 2016 with Britten Sinfonia in London. The world premiere recording of Stabat Mater will be released by Coro in conjunction with the Scottish premiere tour.
MacMillan then conducts the BBC Scottish Symphony in a programme of Geddes, Finzi Clarinet Concerto, joined by soloist Annelien Van Wauwe, and the Scottish premiere of his Symphony No.4 in concerts in Glasgow City Halls and Ayr town Hall on 30 and 31 March. Symphony No.4 was co-commissioned by BBC Radio 3 and received its world premiere from BBC Scottish Symphony under Donald Runnicles at the 2015 BBC Proms.
MacMillan also conducts the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Symphony Orchestra on 17 March, conducting the winner of the 2016 MacMillan Concerto competition Clara Lafuente Garci in The World’s Ransoming, alongside The Death of Oscar.
Other concerts across the month include the world premiere of his Concertino for Horn and Strings with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra on 2, 3 and 4 March under the baton of Andrew Manze, the Scottish premiere of his Viola Concerto by BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Lawrence Power and the Nash Ensemble give three concerts at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland featuring MacMillan’s chamber works on 3, 4 and 5 March.
Sir James MacMillan is Composer of the Year at Pittsburgh Symphony
Sir James MacMillan joins the Pittsburgh Symphony as the orchestra's Composer of the Year for the season 2016/17.
MacMillan's residency sees a major focus of his music at the orchestra across the season, beginning with the world premiere of a specially commissioned piece, Fanfare for Pittsburgh, on 3 December 2016. It continues with the premiere of MacMillan’s 4th Symphony in January 2017 conducted by Manfred Honeck, a major new work which was co-commissioned with the BBC Proms and Berkeley Symphony.
MacMillan joins an elite list of composers who have held the title of Pittsburgh Symphony Composer of the Year, including John Adams and Krzysztof Penderecki. MacMillan will also participate in extensive outreach and education work as part of the residency, in collaboration with the orchestra and other ensembles and universities.
The residency resumes on 10 February when the PSO, conducted by Manfred Honeck, perform MacMillan’s percussion concerto Veni, Veni, Emmanuel with Colin Currie as soloist. To conclude the residency MacMillan’s powerful choral work Miserere is performed by the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh alongside Mahler’s 2nd Symphony in June 2017, again under the baton of Manfred Honeck.
Sir James MacMillan conducts the English Chamber Orchestra in tribute to Sir Peter Maxwell Davies
Sir James MacMillan joins the English Chamber Orchestra at Kings Place on 4 November 2016 in a concert dedicated to Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, who died in March this year. The concert includes Maxwell Davies Strathclyde Concerto No.5, Seven in Nomine and MacMillan Seraph with Alison Balsom. A long-time admirer and colleague of Max, MacMillan paid warm tribute to him following the news of his death earlier this year:
“Max was a huge inspiration to me in my musical life. Ever since I saw Eight Songs for A Mad King on the television in the 1970s and visited the St Magnus Festival in 1980 as an undergraduate I have been moved and excited by his work and his vision of the composer in society. He will be sorely missed.”
The concert is preceded by a screening of the BBC and Tom Service’s ‘Peter Maxwell Davies – Master and Maverick’ which was first aired in April 2016.
Sir James MacMillan's Stabat Mater receives world premiere at the Barbican Centre
Sir James MacMillan’s Stabat Mater receives its world premiere at the Barbican Centre, London on 15 October 2016 by The Sixteen and Britten Sinfonia. Stabat Mater was commissioned by the Genesis Foundation for Harry Christophers and The Sixteen. To celebrate the world premiere, the Barbican are hosting a MacMillan Choral Music Day which also sees MacMillan Seven Angels receive its London premiere in an afternoon concert at St. Giles-without-Cripplegate, with Ex Cathedra conducted by Jeffrey Skidmore.
Speaking on writing for the Sixteen MacMillan said:
“Knowing the singers and the string players personally had a major impact on the score. For instance I was aware that The Sixteen’s singers often perform as soloists as well as chorally, which has allowed me to move from tutti to solo sections, with divisi sopranos tumbling over each other, or a section highlighting the four tenor voices alone. Harry Christophers and the performers also understand my style intimately, so the premiere of Stabat Mater should be ideal from a composer’s perspective.”
There are repeat performances of Stabat Mater at Saffron Hall (16 October), St. Andrew’s Hall Norwich (18 October), and Bridgewater Hall Manchester (28 October).
Sir James MacMillan's Cumnock Tryst opens at Cumnock Town Hall
Sir James MacMillan’s annual Cumnock Tryst opens this year on 29 September 2016, beginning with a performance at Cumnock Town Hall by artists in residence Headspace and Pandora’s Box. MacMillan himself appears on 1 October, conducting Leigh Melrose in a performance of Copland American Songs at Auchinleck Parish Church.
Founded by MacMillan in 2014, the Cumnock Tryst was shortlisted for the 2016 Royal Philharmonic Society Concert Series and Festivals Award. This year the festival runs from 29 September to 2 October and features concerts by ensembles and performers including festival patron Nicola Benedetti, Leonard Elschenbroich, Alexei Grynyuk, NYOS Camerata and Genesis Sixteen in venues across the town.
Sir James MacMillan’s recording of The Lost Songs of St. Kilda released on Decca
On 9 September 2016 Decca Records release a disc of The Lost Songs of St. Kilda, featuring Trevor Morrisson and the Scottish Festival Orchestra, conducted by Sir James MacMillan. This new album features folk songs of the islanders of St. Kilda, about 40 miles west of the Outer Hebrides off Scotland’s north-west coast, the last of whom were evacuated from the island in 1930 and whose music was lost to the world until now.
The recording was made possible because of Scotsman Trevor Morrison, who was taught the songs in his youth on the island of Bute by a teacher from St Kilda. Morrison was recorded playing the songs in a nursing home several years ago and MacMillan and other leading Scottish composers including Craig Armstrong, Francis Macdonald and Christopher Duncan were then approached to add arrangements to the ethereal melodies. Each track is named after a part of St Kilda and MacMillan arranged the track Hirta and conducted the recording.
Speaking of being involved in the project MacMillan said:
“Forgotten songs, melodies that had disappeared from popular remembrance, and he’s kept them alive playing them on the piano. Very beautiful, simple accompaniments. There’s something very haunting about those recordings. You can feel the years rolling back: something very ethereal. The idea of bringing those songs, those melodies back to life is lovely in itself but to clothe them in new music or to allow them to become the jumping-off point for a composer’s own explorations into those melodies is a great idea.”
Sir James MacMillan's A European Requiem receives world premiere at the Oregon Bach Festival
James MacMillan returns the United States this June to conduct the Oregon Bach Festival Chamber Orchestra, and for the world premiere of his A European Requiem. On 28 June 2016 MacMillan conducts the OBF Chamber Orchestra in a programme of MacMillan For Sonny and Sinfonietta alongside Mendelssohn Hebrides Overture and Shostakovich Chamber Symphony.
On 2 July A European Requiem receives its world premiere from the Oregon Bach Festival Orchestra and Chorus under the baton of artistic director Matthew Halls. MacMillan has described A European Requiem as non-liturgical and an attempt "to fuse the Requiem with symphonic form in a single continuous movement, moving between the sections of text via linking orchestral episodes.”
Sir James MacMillan makes his National Symphony Orchestra conducting debut at Kennedy Center
Sir James MacMillan makes his debut conducting the National Symphony Orchestra in three concerts at the Kennedy Center, Washington DC, on 12, 13 and 14 May 2016. The programme includes his Three Interludes from The Sacrifice, Vaughan Williams Symphony No.4 and Elgar Cello Concerto, performed by soloist Alban Gerhardt.
MacMillan The Sacrifice: Three Interludes are orchestral extracts from his second opera seamed together in a concert suite. The Sacrifice is based on one of the Mabinogian stories, a collection of ancient Welsh myths.
MacMillan returns to the United States in June to conduct the Oregon Bach Festival Orchestra.
Pavel Haas Quartet, Sir James MacMillan & Jérémie Rhorer win at the BBC Music Magazine Awards
Recordings by the Pavel Haas Quartet, Sir James MacMillan and Jérémie Rhorer have all been honoured at the BBC Music Magazine Awards, announced on 5 April at a ceremony in London.
The Pavel Haas Quartet’s recording of Smetana’s String Quartets Nos 1&2 has been awarded ‘Best Chamber Music recording’. Upon its release, the recording was selected as BBC Music Magazine’s ‘Chamber choice’ and the quartet’s interpretation of the Smetana quartets hailed as ‘superlative’ and ‘definitive performances in which nothing is taken for granted’. This is the second prize awarded to the recording, which also won the Best Chamber Music Recording at the 2015 Gramophone Awards. Having won the ‘Newcomer of the Year’ Award in 2007, this is the second time the quartet win a BBC Music Magazine Award.
Sir James MacMillan’s recording, conducting the Britten Sinfonia in his own Oboe Concerto with Nicholas Daniel as soloist, has won the Premiere Award. Released by Harmonia Mundi in April 2015 the disc also includes MacMillan conducting Vaughan Williams’ Oboe Concerto and Britten’s Suite on English Folk Tunes. The CD was lauded by critics on its release and was Gramophone Magazine’s Editor’s Choice in April 2015, BBC Music Magazine Concerto Choice in August 2015 and a finalist in the Presto Discs of 2015.
Jérémie Rhorer’s recording of Poulenc Dialogues des Carmélites with the Philharmonia Orchestra won the ‘DVD Award’. Recorded live at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, this new production was directed by Olivier Py with a cast including Patricia Petibon, Sophie Koch, Véronique Gens, Sandrine Piau and Rosalind Plowright. Winner of ‘Best Opera Production 2013’ from the Syndicat des Critiques Francaises, the recording received great critical acclaim after the premiere in Paris, and in subsequent reviews of the DVD since its release:
“Jérémie Rhorer led the Philharmonia Orchestra in the pit: eliciting passionate lyricism from the strings, vibrant sonorities from the brass, and plangent melodies from the woodwinds. The French conductor wrought every last drop from the score, supporting the soloists and the dramatic flow with the solicitude of a prioress for her nuns. The result was eternally beautiful.”
Le Monde, December 2013
Mark Wigglesworth, Daniil Trifonov & Sir James MacMillan's Cumnock Tryst shortlisted for RPS Music Awards
The Shortlists for the 2016 RPS Music Awards were announced on 31 March 2016, with Mark Wigglesworth and Daniil Trifonov shortlisted in the Conductor and Instrumentalist categories, while Sir James MacMillan's festival The Cumnock Tryst is shortlisted in the Concert Series and Festivals category.
Mark Wigglesworth’s nomination follows a run of highly acclaimed productions as Music Director of English National Opera in which his conducting has been hailed by the critics as “masterly" (Daily Telegraph) and “sublime” (Times).
Highlights for Daniil Trifonov this season include performances with the New York Philharmonic, Vienna Symphony and London Symphony orchestras, as well as a residency at the Wigmore Hall and recitals at Carnegie Hall, the Concertgebouw, Théatre des Champs Elysées among many others.
James MacMillan’s Cumnock Tryst is nominated in the Concert Series and Festivals category. The festival was founded by MacMillan in October 2014, and takes places annually in his native Ayrshire. Find out more on the Cumnock Tryst’s website.
The RPS Music Awards are the highest recognition for live classical music-making in the United Kingdom, and the winners will be announced in May 2016 at a special awards ceremony.
Sir James MacMillan conducts chamber concerts in Milan and Padova
Sir James MacMillan conducts chamber orchestra I Pomeriggi Musicali in a series of concerts in Italy this month, starting with a performance at Teatro del Verme in Milan on 14 April 2016. MacMillan conducts a programme of MacMillan Oboe Concerto, joined by soloist Francesco Quaranta, Beethoven Symphony No.1 and a new commission by Carlo Boccadoro.
MacMillan’s Oboe Concerto was released on Harmonia Mundi last year to critical appraisal.
‘“Oboists may feel ruefully that musical history owes them a showpiece. They have one now: James MacMillan’s Oboe Concerto turns the soloist into a nimblefooted musical athlete, a star opera singer, a dazzling Highland dancer, all in the space of three varied movements...’
Financial Times, April 2015
"[A] complex, enigmatic and even bipolar work... James MacMillan wrote his Oboe Concerto five years ago, and it was immediately deemed a classic… It’s the central largo — an enormously extended reworking of a threnody that MacMillan wrote after 9/11 — that is the emotional heart and its downward swooping string glissandos and intertwining high woodwind lines are unforgettably anguished. The oboe writing is insanely demanding throughout; Daniel is stunning.”
Times, April 2015
Sir James MacMillan conducts his Seven Last Words from the Cross with the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra
Sir James Macmillan conducts the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra and Choir in concert in Amsterdam and Haarlem on 19 and 20 Ferbuary 2016. MacMillan conducts a programme that include his Seven Last Words from the Cross for chamber choir and strings.
Sir James MacMillan conducts German premiere of his Viola Concerto with Lawrence Power
Sir James MacMillan conducts the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra in the German premiere of his Viola Concerto at the Hessischer Rundfunk Sendesaal, Frankfurt on 22 January 2016 with Lawrence Power as soloist. They perform again at Venue Stadttheater Gießen on the following day.
The all-British programme is part of the Frankfurt Radio’s contemporary series, which also includes Thomas Adès Polaris, Julian Anderson Prayer and Mark-Anthony Turnage Frieze.
MacMillan also conducts the Munich Chamber Orchestra in the Composer Portrait series at the Pinakothek der Modern art gallery, with an all-MacMillan programme including his “Seraph” for solo trumpet and strings with soloist Tine Thing Helseth.
Sir James MacMillan knighted at Windsor Castle
Sir James MacMillan was knighted on 8 December 2015 at an Investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle. MacMillan’s knighthood was announced in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list on 12 June 2015 for his services to music. The honour follows the award of the CBE in 2004.
MacMillan’s music is widely performed all over the world. The Investiture closely followed the UK premiere of MacMillan's Women of the Apocalypse, performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Marin Alsop, and performances of his Piano Concert No.3, performed by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and Alexandre Bloch.
Sir James MacMillan's Piano Concerto No.3 performed by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and Jean Yves Thibaudet
The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra performs Sir James MacMillan’s Piano Concerto No.3 at the Het Concertbouw in two performances on 3 and 4 December 2015 conducted by Alexandre Bloch. The orchestra is joined by soloist Jean Yves Thibaudet, who performed the world premiere of the concerto in April 2011 with the Minnesota Orchestra.
MacMillan’s third piano concerto is named ‘The Mysteries of Light’ and attempts to revive the ancient practice of writing music based on the structure of the Rosary.
Sir James MacMillan’s Cumnock Tryst opens in Cumnock
Sir James MacMillan’s Cumnock Tryst opens on 1 October 2015 with a performance given by the Whitburn Band at Cumnock Town Hall. MacMillan conducts the band, one of the UK’s leading brass bands, in a performance of his Canite Tuba. Founded by MacMillan in 2014 and inspired by his piece, The Tryst, the Cumnock Tryst features performances by musicians and ensembles across the town between 1 and 4 October. The festival’s patron is Nicola Benedetti.
Colin Currie performs Scottish & US premieres of MacMillan's Percussion Concerto No.2
On 14 August 2015, Colin Currie makes his Edinburgh International Festival debut performing James MacMillan’s Percussion Concerto No.2 with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. Edward Gardner conducts, with Sir James MacMillan in attendance for the Scottish premiere of his work.
Currie returns to Edinburgh the following week to perform in a chamber recital at the Queen’s Hall on 21 August 2015, alongside pianists Simon Crawford-Phillips and Philip Moore and percussionist Sam Walton. The musicians fly straight from Helsinki, where the previous night they perform at the Helsinki Festival with other musicians as the Colin Currie Group. In Edinburgh, the four musicians perform music by John Adams, Steve Reich, Rolf Wallin and Bartok, and the concert will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 3.
Also in August, Colin Currie performs the US premiere of MacMillan’s Percussion Concerto No.2 at the Cabrillo Festival on 7 August conducted by Marin Alsop, with whom Colin frequently collaborates. Looking ahead to the new season, Alsop conducts several more performances of MacMillan’s percussion concerto with Currie, first with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra on 25 and 28 February 2016 and with three performances in Sao Paulo from 10 to 12 March 2016 to open the orchestra’s new season.
Sir James MacMillan’s Symphony No.4 receives world premiere at BBC Proms
On 3 August 2015, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra performs the world premiere of Sir James MacMillan’s Symphony No.4, conducted by Donald Runnicles. The concert is the latest collaboration between MacMillan and the orchestra, which last year included a tour to India and several concerts in Glasgow, and a cycle of MacMillan’s piano concertos this season. In March 2016 the orchestra performs the Scottish premiere of MacMillan’s Violin Concerto, with Vadim Repin as soloist and Donald Runnicles conducting.
The symphony will also be broadcast on BBC4 on 6 September as part of Sir Mark Elder’s “Sunday Symphonies” series.
Later in August, MacMillan’s Percussion Concerto No.2 receives its US and Scottish premieres. Colin Currie first performs at the Cabrillo Festival conducted by Marin Alsop on 7 August, before performing it with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra at the Edinburgh International Festival on 14 August, conducted by Edward Gardner.
James MacMillan receives Knighthood & Simon Halsey a CBE in Queen’s Birthday Honours
James MacMillan has been awarded a Knighthood and Simon Halsey has been appointed Commander of the British Empire in the Queen’s Birthday Honours this year, announced on 12 June 2015. Both honours have been awarded for services to music.
James MacMilllan, whose Knighthood follows his CBE awarded in 2004, made this statement following the announcement:
"I am totally delighted to receive this honour. I am especially pleased that the world of music, and contemporary composition in particular, will receive greater focus and recognition as a result. I feel encouraged and re-energised in my commitments in these fields and especially in my work with the new festival in Ayrshire, The Cumnock Tryst."
MacMillan’s music is widely performed around the world, from opera houses and top international orchestras to local church and community choirs. His Veni, Veni, Emmanuel is established as the most popular of all percussion concertos with close to 500 performances since its premiere in 1992, while his choral motet O Radiant Dawn was recently sung as the new tomb of Richard III was revealed. His music has strong Scottish roots, inflected with folk music and Gaelic psalmody, while his new festival, The Cumnock Tryst, sets out to bring active music-making back to the area in Ayrshire where he grew up. MacMillan’s latest release, Oboe Concertos, on Harmonia Mundi has been met with great critical acclaim.
Future highlights for MacMillan include the world premiere of his Symphony No.4 at the BBC Proms conducted by Donald Runnicles, and the first Scottish and US performances of his Percussion Concerto No.2 with soloist Colin Currie at the Edinburgh Festival and Cabrillo Festival in California. Forthcoming commissions include a Requiem, Stabat Mater and Trombone Concerto, and conducting highlights of the 2015/16 season include the National Symphony Orchestra Washington, Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra and Munich Chamber Orchestra.
Simon Halsey has been appointed CBE in recognition of his outstanding contribution to British society through choral music. On receiving the award, Halsey commented:
“This is as thrilling as it is unexpected! Conductors can only function if they are privileged to work with good musicians, and I have been blessed by encountering the best singers, from every walk of life and of every age range, that the UK has to offer. This award is for us all – for the extraordinary energy and commitment of thousands of people.”
While being a sought-after choral conductor across the globe, Halsey has always remained firmly engaged in the musical life of the UK: in Birmingham, where his professional career started, he’s been at the helm of the CBSO Chorus for more than 30 years, launching many wide-ranging educational projects there too. Also in Birmingham, he co-founded Birmingham Opera Company with Graham Vick and launched a postgraduate course in Choral Conducting at the University of Birmingham, where he still teaches the next generation of chorus masters.
Halsey’s first three years as Choral Director of the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) and Chorus have already brought about exciting and highly popular choral initiatives, such as “Come and Sing” days and new community choirs; the arrival of Sir Simon Rattle as Principal Conductor of the LSO, with whom Halsey worked closely both in Birmingham and Berlin, is due to give further impulse to educational initiatives both in London and beyond. Halsey is also the founder and Director of the BBC Proms Youth Choir, formed of young singers from all over the UK, which he prepares each year to perform with the world’s finest orchestras at the Royal Albert Hall.
Earlier this year, Halsey was also awarded the 2015 Queen’s Medal for Music for his contribution to musical life in the UK.
James MacMillan Oboe Concerto recording released on Harmonia Mundi to great critical acclaim
In April 2015, Harmonia Mundi released James MacMillan’s Oboe Concerto on CD and digital download alongside Vaughan Williams’ Oboe Concerto, MacMillan’s One and Britten’s Suite on English Folk Tunes: 'A Time There Was'. MacMillan conducts the Britten Sinfonia, with Nicholas Daniel as soloist in his Oboe Concerto.
The disc has been met with great critical acclaim:
“Oboists may feel ruefully that musical history owes them a showpiece. They have one now: James MacMillan’s Oboe Concerto turns the soloist into a nimblefooted musical athlete, a star opera singer, a dazzling Highland dancer, all in the space of three varied movements... MacMillan conducts the Britten Sinfonia himself, also partnering Daniel in Vaughan Williams’s Oboe Concerto and adding Britten’s Suite on English Folk Tunes, Op. 90, for good measure.”
Financial Times, April 2015
“[MacMillan’s Oboe Concerto] is a strongly communicative, sincere work that continues to lure me back, and Daniel’s contribution is past praise in its virtuosity and eloquence. MacMillan himself partners with sympathy and also secures finely chiselled accounts of his own pithy One for chamber orchestra (2012) as well as Britten’s haunted and haunting 1974 Suite on English Folk Tunes… Excellent sound and truthful balance throughout: this anthology merits a strong recommendation.”
Gramophone, May 2015
“James MacMillan wrote his Oboe Concerto five years ago, and it was immediately deemed a classic… It’s the central largo — an enormously extended reworking of a threnody that MacMillan wrote after 9/11 — that is the emotional heart and its downward swooping string glissandos and intertwining high woodwind lines are unforgettably anguished. The oboe writing is insanely demanding throughout; Daniel is stunning.”
Times, April 2015
“The MacMilllan concerto, on the other hand, is a seriously virtuosic piece, making big technical demands of its dedicatee, particularly in the hilariously hectic finale. This is a bravura display by Daniel, with lightly assured playing from the always-rewarding Britten Sinfonia.”
Guardian, May 2015
“On this disc of delightfully summery music, the emphasis is initially on the pastoral... in James MacMillan’s One for chamber orchestra, a simple short work with echoes of Vaughan Williams, but whose notational inflexions give a magical Scottish bent to the musical language. MacMillan’s own Oboe Concerto introduces a feistier mood, its nimble virtuosity playfully executed by the same soloist. There’s mischief, too, in Britten’s Suite on English Folk Tunes.”
Scotsman, five stars, May 2015
“…teasing one with a magical, five minute piece by MacMillan called One for Chamber Orchestra, a 20th birthday present for Britten Sinfonia. It is simply (complexly!) a monody passed round the players, glistening as it goes. His searching Oboe Concerto, premiered by these performers in 2010, is a bracing contrast with Vaughan Williams’s Concerto for Oboe and Strings, that small miracle of barely interrupted broken lyrical flow, never more persuasive than in Daniel’s interpretation."
Sunday Times, April 2015
James MacMillan conducts RLPO in world premiere of A Little Mass
On 28 March, James MacMillan will return to the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic to conduct the world premiere of his composition Little Mass, a Mass setting for children’s choir and orchestra, at Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall. The concert also includes Beethoven Overture Leonore No.3, Wagner Prelude to Parsifal and Good Friday Music, and Rimsky-Korsakov Russian Easter Overture, Op.36.
Little Mass is commissioned by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Society for its 175th Anniversary, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. Supported by Sally, Mary and Jonathan Groves to mark the centenary of Sir Charles Groves, in the month he would have celebrated his 100th birthday.
James MacMillan conducts new production of Inés de Castro at Scottish Opera
James MacMillan conducts his opera Inés de Castro with Scottish Opera, opening on 22 January. MacMillan’s first opera, premiered at the Edinburgh Festival in 1996, Inés de Castro was commissioned by Scottish Opera after the play by Scottish playwright Jo Clifford. MacMillan conducts it for the first time in this new production.
MacMillan conducts three performances on 22 and 24 January at Theatre Royal, Glasgow, and 29 January at Festival Theatre, Edinburgh.
Colin Currie gives world premiere of James MacMillan's new percussion concerto in Utrecht
Colin Currie gives the world premiere performance of James MacMillan's Percussion Concerto No.2 on 7 November, with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra at TivoliVredenberg in Utrecht, under the baton of James Gaffigan. Following Currie's many performances of MacMillan's first Percussion Concerto, Veni, Veni Emmanuel, in the 22 years since it was written, MacMillan penned the second specifically for his fellow Scot.
The UK premiere of the concerto takes place on 11 December, when Currie will perform the piece with the Philharmonia Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall. Conducted by Santtu-Matias Rouvali, the performance will be the closing concert of Currie's acclaimed Metal Wood Skin percussion festival at the Southbank Centre. On 19 December, Currie travels to Toulouse to perform the new concerto with the Orchestre National de Capitole de Tououse at the Halle aux Grains in Toulouse and Le Parvis Scène Nationale, Tarbes-Pyrénées.
Currie's performances of the concerto will continue into 2015/16, with Currie performing the piece alongside Marin Alsop and the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and São Paulo Symphony Orchestra.
James MacMillan: concerts in Brazil with Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra
James MacMillan travels to Brazil for the first time for a week-long engagement with the Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra during October, where he is the orchestra's Composer of the Season 2014.
He attends the Brazilian premiere performances, beginning on 9 October, of his works Britannia and Woman of the Apocalypse conducted by Marin Alsop. The visit culminates in MacMillan conducting a choral programme of Victoria, Poulenc and his own Sun-Dogs, Màiri and O Bone Jesu. Whilst in Sao Paulo, MacMillan also gives a public lecture on his music.
James MacMillan conducts New Zealand Symphony Orchestra in two concerts
Having returned from his March tour of India with the BBC Scottish Orchestra and Nicola Benedetti and a week-long residency at Duke University in the US, James MacMillan travels to Wellington and Auckland to conduct the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra on 9 and 10 May.
The two concerts take place at the Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington and at Auckland Town Hall. MacMillan conducts the premiere of Lyell Cresswell’s The Clock Stops for baritone and orchestra with Jonathan Lemalu as soloist, followed by his own Woman of the Apocalypse and The Confession of Isobel Gowdie. This is the New Zealand premiere of Woman of the Apocalypse, which received its world premiere at the Cabrillo Festival in 2012.
Click here for further information about MacMillan’s performances with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in three-city India tour debut with James MacMillan
In a tour of mini-residencies at three venues in India’s major cities, Intermusica takes the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra for its first performances in India at the end of March 2014. The orchestra will appear at Chennai’s Sir Mutha Venkatasubba Concert Hall, Delhi’s Siri Fort and Mumbai’s National Centre for Performing Arts. The orchestra is joined by composer and conductor James MacMillan and violinist Nicola Benedetti.
Events begin on 27 March in Chennai with a talk and composition workshop with MacMillan at the KM Music Conservatory, followed by children's concerts on 28 March and the first public performance of the tour, at Chennai’s Sir Mutha Venkatasubba Concert Hall, on 29 March. The tour moves on to Delhi for workshops and performances on 1 and 2 April, and then to Mumbai for events for workshops and outreach events on 4 and 5 April. The final performance of the tour takes place on 6 April at Mumbai’s National Centre for Performing Arts.
MacMillan conducts the orchestra and will be joined by soloist Benedetti for programmes including Mendelssohn’s ‘Hebrides’ Overture and Mozart’s Violin Concerto No.1.
As well as including a range of workshops, outreach events at local schools, family events and children’s performances in every city, the tour also involves students from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland who will play with the orchestra as well as having the opportunity to perform as their own group. Students from the Conservatoire’s Film & Television courses will accompany the group to document the orchestra’s time in India. The tour is part of the legacy of the Delhi Commonwealth Games in 2010 and demonstrates the partnership built between the two countries ahead of the Glasgow Games in 2014.
James MacMillan conducts BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in all-MacMillan programme
James MacMillan conducts the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in an all-MacMillan programme on 11 January at Glasgow City Halls.
The five-piece programme begins and ends with two world premieres, Symphonic Study and The Keening, and also includes the Scottish premiere of A Deep but Dazzling Darkness. The concert also features MacMillan’s new arrangement of For Sonny for string orchestra, and Exsultet.
The concert will be recorded for BBC Radio 3’s Hear and Now late-night contemporary music series, for broadcast at a later date.
This is the first of MacMillan’s three engagements with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra this season; on 10 March he conducts a concert to mark Commonwealth Day comprising music associated with Glasgow and the West of Scotland, culminating in a performance of MacMillan’s The Confession of Isobel Gowdie. Then in April, MacMillan conducts the orchestra on their first ever tour to India, where he conducts concerts in Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai and will be joined by Nicola Benedetti and students from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.