Stuart MacRae was born in Inverness, Scotland, in 1976. After reading music at Durham University with Philip Cashian, Sohrab Uduman and Michael Zev Gordon, he went on to study composition at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama with Simon Bainbridge and Robert Saxton.
MacRae first came to public attention as a finalist in the 1996 Lloyd’s Bank Young Composer’s Workshop, when his orchestral piece Boeraig was given its first professional performance by the BBC Philharmonic conducted by Martyn Brabbins. The same orchestra went on to give the first performance of MacRae’s The Witch’s Kiss in the following year, this time under the baton of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. As part of the 1997 BBC Symphony Orchestra’s Composers’ Forum, Landscape and the Mind: Distance, Refuge was given its first performance, conducted by Martyn Brabbins.
2001 saw the première of MacRae’s Violin Concerto at the BBC Proms. The piece, initially performed by violinist Tasmin Little and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Martyn Brabbins, was later taken up by Christian Tetzlaff who was the soloist at the 2002 Edinburgh Festival performance with the Orchestre de Lyon conducted by David Robertson. Following that performance, the Guardian wrote “…It is testament to the richness of this concerto that although it has already been exposed to a wide range of interpretations, the sense is that there is still more to discover.”
Between 1999 and 2003, MacRae was Composer-in-Association with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, a happy period of collaboration which culminated in a Composer Portrait concert at the Tramway, Glasgow, conducted by Ilan Volkov. The concert included three of MacRae’s works – Stirling Choruses (composed for the orchestra’s brass section), Portrait II and the Violin Concerto, with violinist Tedi Papavrami.
Alongside these orchestral works, a number of chamber pieces have made significant additions to MacRae’s output. His Piano Sonata has been recorded on Delphian Records, while the piano solo 32 has been broadcast on Radio France and performed in London’s Purcell Room. MacRae’s String Quartet was first performed by the Edinburgh Quartet. The string trio One Man in his Time was premiered at the Spannungen Festival, Germany, in 2003. The piece was later performed alongside MacRae’s Piano Quintet in New York at the 2003 Barge Music concert series by the ensemble Chamber Domaine. More recently, Arakne, a commission from the 2004 Cheltenham Festival, was first performed by clarinettist Michael Collins and pianist Aleksander Madzr.
Starting with the Violin Concerto, MacRae has won critical acclaim for a number of works for soloist and ensemble. Interact, written in 2003 for trumpeter John Wallace and the London Sinfonietta, was described by the Daily Telegraph as “…a brave and confident work, written by an artist who has thrown down the gauntlet to himself and his audience and come up with something arresting, witty and rather mysterious.” Hamartia for solo cello and 12 strings, was commissioned by the Scottish Ensemble which toured the work extensively with soloist Liwei Qin during 2003, giving the London première at the 2005 BBC Proms.
2005 saw the first performances of two significant works - Two Scenes from the Death of Count Ugolino (a setting of passages from Dante Alghieri’s Inferno) and Three Pictures. The former, which was commissioned by the Gulbenkian Foundation of Lisbon with support from the British Council, was performed in Lisbon and Birmingham by Loré Lixenberg and the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group conducted by Susanna Malkki in February and March 2005. Three Pictures was commissioned by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra which gave the première in Glasgow in May 2005 under the direction of Oliver Knussen.
Stuart MacRae has recently completed his first opera – The Assassin Tree – a co-commission between the Edinburgh International Festival and the Royal Opera House, in a co-production with Scottish Opera. The work will be premiered at the Edinburgh Festival in August with performances at the Linbury Studio of the Royal Opera House the following month. MacRae is Edinburgh Festival Creative Fellow for 2005/6, and has also recently taken up a residency at Villa Concordia in Bamberg, Germany
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