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The third of Zoë Beyers' conversations in The Music Room is with Artistic Director of the world-renowned Hebrides Ensemble, William Conway.
William Conway is an internationally renowned conductor and cellist, whose performances have been described as ‘astonishingly convincing’ (Opera magazine), ‘a tour de force’ (Guardian), with ‘a flair for the unpredictable’ (Financial Times). On the podium, he is known for his conviction, clarity and intelligent musicianship, while his collaborations with Hebrides Ensemble, of whom he is the Artistic Director and founding member, have been praised for their fresh and inspirational approach to programming.
Born in Glasgow, Conway studied at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music then London’s Royal College of Music before returning to Scotland to take the position of Principal Cello with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, a post he held for ten years. He is a founding member and Co-principal Cello of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and has worked with many of the great conductors including Abbado, Berglund, Boulez, Karajan, Guilini, Haitink, Harnoncourt, Maazel, Nezet-Seguin and Rattle. He is a passionate advocate of contemporary music, is the dedicatee of several works and has commissioned and performed a huge range of new works from composers such as Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Sir James MacMillan, Nigel Osborne, Stuart MacRae and David Fenessy. His work with Hebrides Ensemble, described by The Scotsman as ‘one of the most innovative and thrilling ensembles in Europe’ and now in its 28th year, underpins this commitment. By placing new music at the heart of a diverse range of repertoire, often in new and surprising contexts, Hebrides Ensemble encourages audiences to approach familiar music with fresh ears. His dedication to developing contemporary music has been recognised by an award from the Scottish Society of Composers for an outstanding contribution to new music.
As a conductor, he studied in Helsinki with Jukka-Pekka Saraste and was a finalist and prizewinner in the 1994 Leeds Conductors’ Competition. Since then, he has established himself as a conductor of versatility in chamber, symphonic and operatic repertoire, and has conducted the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Royal Northern Sinfonia, English Sinfonia, Chamber Orchestra of Europe (with whom he has made a CD recording released by Warner), and the Symphony Orchestras of Cairo, Sofia, Zagreb, de Filharmonie of Flanders, the Belgian orchestra Beethoven Academie, Teatro di Cagliari, Göettingen, and the American Phoenix Symphony Orchestra in all repertoires from baroque to present day.
He made his conducting debut at the BBC Proms last year in performances of Stravinsky's The Soldier's Tale. He has conducted many operas including Mozart's Magic Flute and Figaro, Verdi's Otello, Puccini's Tosca and Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, the double-bill Cav/Pag, Puccini's Gianni Schicci to Nigel Osborne's Differences in Demolition and Sir Peter Maxwell-Davies's Martyrdom of St Magnus. He is a regular guest with many young orchestras including the National Youth orchestras of Scotland and Australia. He teaches conducting at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.
He is Music Director of Edinburgh Studio Opera and is Artistic Director and Head of Strings at St Mary’s Music School in Edinburgh. He broadcasts regularly on BBC Radio 3 and has recorded for Deutsche Grammophon, Linn Records, Unicorn-Kanchana and Delphian Records in a series of highly successful recordings of music by Judith Weir and Nigel Osborne. His recordings with Hebrides Ensemble of music by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies and Sir James MacMillan have both reached no 3 and no 1 respectively in the classical music charts.
The conversation – to be broadcast on YouTube or on Vimeo from 19:30 to 20:30 on Friday, 17th July – will be followed immediately by a Zoom Q&A session hosted by William Conway. If you would like to take part, please email