James MacMillan read music at Edinburgh University and took Doctoral studies in composition at Durham University with John Casken. After working as a lecturer at Manchester University, he returned to Scotland and settled in Glasgow. The premiere of Tryst at the 1990 St Magnus Festival led to his appointment as Affiliate Composer of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. Between 1992 and 2002 he was Artistic Director of the Philharmonia Orchestra's Music of Today series of contemporary music concerts. MacMillan is internationally active as a conductor, working as Composer/Conductor with the BBC Philharmonic between 2000 and 2009, and appointed Principal Guest Conductor of the Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic from 2010. He was awarded a CBE in January 2004.
In addition to The Confession of Isobel Gowdie, which launched MacMillan's international career at the BBC Proms in 1990, his orchestral output includes the percussion concerto Veni, Veni, Emmanuel, premiered by Evelyn Glennie in 1992 and which has since received over 400 performances. MacMillan's music has been programmed extensively at international music festivals, including the Edinburgh Festival in 1993, the South Bank Centre's 1997 Raising Sparks festival in London and the BBC Barbican Composer Weekend in 2005. A documentary film portrait of MacMillan was screened on ITV's South Bank Show in 2003.
Other works by MacMillan also include Seven Last Words from the Cross for chorus and string orchestra, screened on BBC TV during Holy Week 1994, Inés de Castro, premiered by Scottish Opera and toured to Porto in 2001, a triptych of orchestral works commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra: The World's Ransoming, a Cello Concerto for Mstislav Rostropovich, Symphony: 'Vigil' premiered under the baton of Rostropovich in 1997, and Quickening for The Hilliard Ensemble, chorus and orchestra, co-commissioned by the BBC Proms and the Philadelphia Orchestra.
Macmillan's Koch Schwann disc of The Confession of Isobel Gowdie and Tryst won the 1993 Gramophone Contemporary Music Record of the Year Award.
Reproduced by kind permission of Boosey & Hawkes