Interview with Alasdair Nicolson

Interview with Alasdair Nicolson

Composer and Artistic Director of the St Magnus International Festival 2014

LiveOil Meets Alasdair Nicolson

Alasdair Nicolson has been the Artistic Director of the 2014 edition of the International Festival of St Magnus in Orkney.

He was born in Inverness and studied at Edinburgh University. Whilst his first commissions came immediately after he finished his studies, he began his career by combining composition with work in theatre and opera as musical director, conductor and repetiteur. It was in the late 80s and early 90s that he came to wider attention as winner of the IBM Composers' Prize and, following this success, he received commissions from the UK and abroad. Nicolson has gone on to work with some of the world's best orchestras, ensembles and soloists. His music is widely performed and broadcast and it has won critical acclaim for its clarity, craftsmanship and individuality. He is now regarded as one of Scotland's foremost composers.

On the occasion of the Festival in Orkney, Nicolson released an interview to Liveoil.


Mr. Nicolson, thank you for accepting our invitation for an interview. Norway, Scotland and Italy were at the center of the Festival. From the far north to the deep south of Europe. The Festival of St. Magnus aims to facilitate cultural exchange in Europe and aims to become a reference point in this direction?

This year we celebrate the culture and primarily Norwegian and Italian culture. Our idea is to trace the history and see the cultural ties it originates. In the case of Norway ties go far back in time while for Italy they date back to the events of the Second World War. What I hope, as artistic director, is that these ties will continue and that's why we are working on with Italian and Norwegian artists as well as with other artists, of course. Norway and Italy are probably the most connected nations with Orkney throughout history because here we have the Italian Chapel built by Italian prisoners and we have a large cathedral built by the Norwegians during the Middle Ages


Did you come across difficulties and unexpected events in the course of the organization of the Festival?

The Festival is like a big puzzle, a jigsaw or tapestry made up of events, people, travel, details, space. There are many things that contribute the event happening. There are many things to follow, just as there are many things that can go wrong, fortunately not many did so and when this happened all was resolved quickly. During the Festival we have many different events ranging from symphonic to chamber quartets, from theater to the exhibition on the Italian Chapel, many different forms of art and this has made things even more difficult.


How do you think the upcoming public consultation on Scottish independence could affect the future of the Festival and on a larger scale, the future of UK?

Well, I do not live in Scotland but in England. I think Scotland has a well-defined culture whatever will happen. The sense of what it means to be Scottish has always been very clear in culture, literature, music, and also when it comes to education to be Scottish is diffferente that being British. I think that with regard to the Festival the only thing that can change in the case of an independent Scotland is the mechanism for financial support and how the new government will continue to support the Festival. It does not matter if Orkney is part of Scotland or the UK when it comes to cultural cultural aspects.


Finally, what does Alasdair Nicolson think of Italy?

Italy is an amazing country that I have visited many times. As well as Scotland, Italy has a strong sense of culture in general, and especially for music. For a musician like me, Italy is a special place where great musicians come from and it inspired me always when I compose my music. That Italian, as well as that of Scotland is a very rich culture, you have painting, literature, poetry, opera and music. And so different proportions but with many similarities with Scotland.


For more information on the work of Alasdair Nicolson you can visit his personal web page