John McLeod is one of Scotland’s foremost composers and amongst the UK’s busiest and most prolific. He studied composition at the Royal Academy of Music with Sir Lennox Berkeley but later came under the influence of Witold Lutoslawski who became his mentor. John has won many awards for his work including the Guinness Prize for British composers.
He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music in 1989 and was a recipient of the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA) Gold Badge in 2014. He has been shortlisted twice for a British Composer Award and in June 2016 was appointed CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. His works have been commissioned, performed and recorded by leading orchestras including the Philharmonia, Halle, BBC SSO (12 works broadcast) RSNO, SCO, NYOS (22 performances) as well as orchestras in Poland, Germany and the USA and by many ensembles and international soloists including Colin Currie, Peter Donohoe, Raimund Gilvan, Dame Evelyn Glennie, Benjamin Luxon, Jane Manning and Murray McLachlan.
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John McLeod CBE was born in Aberdeen, studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London, and has been resident in Edinburgh for over 40 years. His increasingly acclaimed music bears all the hallmarks of exuberant colour and precisely imagined fantasy that his earlier associations with Lennox Berkeley and Witold Lutoslawski would lead one to expect. For over 40 years, he has been at the centre of contemporary Scottish music and is still one of the UK’s busiest and most prolific composers. John has won important awards for his work including the prestigious Guinness Prize for British composers. In 1989 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music and in 2005 and 2010 was nominated for a British Composer Award. Recently he was the recipient of the Gold Badge of the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA) for services to British music. In June 2016 McLeod was created CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.
McLeod’s brilliantly coloured orchestral and vocal music has been commissioned, performed and recorded in many countries by leading orchestras (several conducted by McLeod himself) including the Philharmonia Orchestra, the Hallé Orchestra, the RSNO, the SCO, the Orchestra of the Staatstheater, Saarbrücken, the Nashville Symphony (USA) and the Polish Radio and TV Symphony Orchestra of Krakow. The National Youth Orchestra of Scotland has given over 20 performances of his music over the years (including 3 major commissions) and the BBC SSO has performed and broadcast 15 of his orchestral works.
Soloists such as Evelyn Glennie, Colin Currie, Benjamin Luxon, Raimund Gilvan, Jane Manning, Peter Donohoe, Murray McLachlan, Sam Haywood , Mark Tanner and Ian Watt have all performed his music and conductors including Sir Charles Groves, Sir Alexander Gibson, Neeme Jarvi, Janos Furst, Takuo Yuasa, Yasuo Shinozaki, Joseph Swensen, Donald Runnicles and a host of younger conductors have all included McLeod’s works in their programmes.
McLeod’s music has also been featured at many international festivals including the BBC Proms, City of London Festival, Aldeburgh, Edinburgh, Canterbury, Perth, Aberdeen’s ‘Sound’ Festival and St Magnus (Orkney). Most of his works have also been heard on BBC Radio 3, Classic FM, BBC TV and Channel 4. His compositions cover most musical genres – orchestral (including concertos for piano, percussion, clarinet, guitar and 3 symphonic song-cycles), choral works, church music, songs, instrumental and chamber music as well as scores for film and TV.
In the past few years his output and performances have increased dramatically, culminating in 2014 when his music was heard at the St. Magnus and Aldeburgh Festivals as well as at the BBC Proms where he scored a big personal success with the London premiere of The Sun Dances played by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra conducted by Donald Runnicles. Also in 2014 pianist Murray McLachlan commissioned and performed McLeod’s latest Piano Sonata No.5 and gave over 30 performances of it all over the UK and in France, Greece, Poland, Sweden, Australia and the Canary Islands.
In January 2015 the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, under Joseph Swensen, gave three performances of his latest orchestral work Out of the Silence and a few weeks later McLeod himself conducted the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland in two performances of his Piano Concerto with James Willshire as soloist. 2015 also saw the release, to critical acclaim, of Moments in Time – a major new CD of McLeod’s chamber music by the award- winning Delphian label and played by the outstanding Red Note Ensemble.
Recent commissions have included a new percussion work for Dame Evelyn Glennie’s 50th birthday, a song-cycle for Live Music Now and a new Viola Concerto for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Jane Atkins.
A complete catalogue of John McLeod’s music with details of timings and orchestrations, CDs and up to date biographical details and news, can be found at www.johnmcleod.uk.com
You can also follow John and his music on Facebook and SoundCloud: www.facebook.com/pages/JohnMcLeodcomposer/342005102494630 www.soundcloud.com/griffin_music
What the critics say:
The Sun Dances (at the BBC Proms 2014) “A very fine score, wonderfully, surely orchestrated and engrossing from first bar to last” Musical Opinion
The Song of Dionysius “music with colour and energy, both imaginative and idiomatic” The Times
The Gokstad Ship “music with inspiration and power that overwhelmed the audience” Goteborg Post (Sweden)
Percussion Concerto “McLeod has created music of real diversity and breathtaking virtuosity” Nashville Banner (USA)
“McLeod must be counted a major force in contemporary Scottish music” The Scotsman