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John McLeod

‘Music with colour and energy, both imaginative and idiomatic’ The Times  
John McLeod CBE is one of Scotland’s foremost composers and amongst the UK’s busiest and most prolific. Born and educated in Aberdeen, he has been resident in Edinburgh since 1970. He received his musical education at the Royal Academy of Music, first as a clarinettist studying with Jack Brymer, Reginald Kell and Gervase de Peyer and then, changing direction, he became a composition pupil of Sir Lennox Berkeley. Later he came under the influence of Polish composer Witold Lutosławski who became his mentor. Conducting studies were undertaken with Sir Adrian Boult.

John has won important awards for his work including the prestigious Guinness Prize for British composers and is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music. Recently he was the recipient of the Gold Badge of the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA) and in June 2016 was created CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. The honorary degree of Doctor of Music was conferred on him by Aberdeen University in 2018.

McLeod’s compositions cover most musical genres – orchestral (including concertos for piano, percussion, clarinet, guitar, viola and 3 symphonic song-cycles), choral works, church music, songs, piano music, instrumental and chamber music as well as scores for film and TV.
His brilliantly coloured 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, BBC SSO, NYOS, SCO and by leading orchestras in Germany, Poland and the USA and by ensembles such as Red Note and The Hebrides. Soloists including Dame Evelyn Glennie, Colin Currie, Peter Donohoe, Mark Tanner and Murray McLachlan have all performed his music. Also conductors including Neeme Järvi, Yasuo Shinozaki, Joseph Swensen, Donald Runnicles, Thomas Dausgaard and a host of younger conductors have all included his 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 International Festival, 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.

In the past few years his output and performances have increased dramatically, culminating in 2014 when he scored a significant personal success at the BBC Proms 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 40 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.
CDs to be released in 2018 will feature four of his orchestral works with the RSNO and Dame Evelyn Glennie (on the Delphian label) and Murray and Rose McLachlan’s recording of the complete works for solo piano (on Divine Art).
A new commission – Nordic Fire (Concerto for viola and orchestra) will be premiered in October 2018 by Jane Atkins and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.

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