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.