Graham Ross

As his debut disc gets glowing reviews, the composer-conductor tells us why he took on MacMillan's Seven Last Words

 

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You’ve just released your debut disc on Naxos of James MacMillan’s Seven Last Words from the Cross. How does it feel?
It’s exciting because it’s our first professional recording. This is a culmination of a big project that we did last year which involved us taking works by James MacMillan and Giles Swayne on a Passiontide tour. We did performances in some amazing venues including St Paul’s Cathedral, St John’s Smith Square and Norwich Cathedral.

The CD features the Dmitri Ensemble, which you formed at university…
A couple of friends and I came up with the idea of setting up a string ensemble. We did quite a few performances of both stalwarts of the repertoire and some lesser-known works – people like Bruce Montgomery, William Alwyn, and Giles Swayne. I also began to take more of an interest in works that are either unjustly neglected or newly penned.

When did you first perform James MacMillan’s Seven Last Words?
While I was at university. I got James to come and work on it in preparation for that performance. I was really quite taken aback by people’s responses, both performers and audience alike. It’s quite rare that you perform a relatively unperformed, newish piece and get that kind of response from the first. People were really moved, in tears by the end.

What’s coming up next in your diary?
With the ensemble we’ve just recorded a second disc of previously unrecorded works by Vaughan Williams. It’s a wonderful project that was conducted by Sir David Willcocks, who’s turned 90 this year. That’s coming out on Albion Records later in the year.

Interview by Rebecca Franks

Graham Ross features as our Rising Star in the May issue of BBC Music Magazine, out now. A full review of the Dmitri Ensemble disc will be published in the June issue.

Also in Meet the Artists:

French pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet on Debussy