Alasdair Nicolson

  • Composer

Alasdair Nicolson was born in Inverness, Scotland in 1961 and brought up on the Isle of Skye and the Black Isle. His first musical experiences were in traditional folk music before going on to study at Edinburgh University as an undergraduate, later returning as Shaw McFie Lang Fellow.

An award-winning composer, he came to prominence after winning the IBM Composers’ Prize in the early 1990s and is now regarded as one of Scotland’s most important new compositional voices alongside his contemporary James MacMillan. His work is in demand at home and abroad and he has written music for many of the leading orchestras, ensembles and soloists in the UK, Europe and beyond. His music has its roots in old Scottish music and has been praised for its clarity, invention and emotional depth. Works have been performed and broadcast all over the world from New York to Santiago, Tokyo to Sydney. He has worked with some of the world’s most renowned ensembles including the Nash Ensemble, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, the Trondheim Soloists, the London Sinfonietta, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Hebrides Ensemble, Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the Fidelio Trio as well as many eminent solo performers.

He was for many years Composer in Association with the City of London Sinfonia for whom he wrote several works. Most recently he has written an opera The Iris Murder premiered at the Cottier Chamber Project and a re-imagining of Purcell’s King Arthur for London’s Wigmore Hall. Nicolson has a strong commitment to work within education, with amateur performers, and particularly with young composers; and has made a television programme with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra about composition and written two books about composing. He is Director of the St Magnus Composers’ Course for young professional composers and Artistic Director of the award-winning Sound Inventors Project which aims to engage school children with composing he has also taught at the Britten-Pears schools in Aldeburgh.

Although he has a busy schedule writing music he has always maintained a career as a performing musician and conductor having begun his career as an opera repetiteur and theatre musician. He is highly regarded as a creative producer and is currently Artistic Director of St Magnus International Festival and was formerly Artistic Director of Bath International Music Festival where he followed in a long line of eminent musicians in artist-led programming. He also runs his own ensemble The Assembly Project which is a multi-artform performing group.

Current projects include a new piano concerto for Inon Barnatan and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, a collaboration with the Norwegian writer John Fosse for the BBC Singers and Trondheim Soloists, a new work for pianist Rolf Hind in memory of Peter Maxwell Davies and a work for organ for Christian Wilson.