Rory Macdonald


"Wilson’s Symphony No 3 is an absorbing and rigorous work in comparison and is arrestingly played by Macdonald’s RSNO"

Andrew Mellor, Gramophone

"Rory Macdonald draws thrilling, punchy playing from the Royal Scottish National Orchestra"

Graham Rickson, The Arts Desk

"The sound is rich, full and present, while the orchestral performances under Rory Macdonald are dramatically charged, colourful, and assured"


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Rory Macdonald stands out as one of the most engaging British conductors of his generation, leading stylish performances of a notably wide range of operatic and symphonic repertoire.

In great demand as operatic conductor, he has conducted new productions for the Royal Opera House, Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera and Royal Danish Opera amongst others. Notable highlights have included Peter Grimes (Brisbane Festival), Albert Herring (Glyndebourne), The Turn of the Screw (Vienna Konzerthaus), The Rape of Lucretia (Houston Grand Opera), Carmen (Santa Fe Opera, Canadian Opera Company), Così fan tutte, Le Nozze di Figaro (Oper Frankfurt), Fra Diavolo (Opera di Roma), A Village Romeo and Juliet (Wexford Festival) and The Cunning Little Vixen (Bergen National Opera).

Engagements recently and in seasons beyond include returns to Oper Frankfurt for Le nozze di Figaro and to the Opera Theater of Saint Louis for The Magic Flute, as well as his debut for the Opéra de Tours for Thomas Adès’s Powder Her Face, a performance with the Tokyo City Philharmonic Orchestra, debuts with the Philharmonia and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, and a return to the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

On the concert podium highlights include the première performances of works by notable composers including Sir James Macmillan, Carl Vine, Sally Beamish and Geoffrey Gordon, as well as guest engagements with such orchestras as the Royal Concertgebouw, Oslo Philharmonic, Bergen Philharmonic, London Philharmonic, Hallé, BBC Philharmonic and BBC Scottish Symphony amongst many others.

Rory’s discography includes Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy with Nicola Benedetti (Decca), Eric Chisholm's Piano Concertos with Danny Driver (Hyperion), The Beauty Stone by Arthur Sullivan (Chandos) and Thomas Wilson’s Third and Fourth Symphonies with the RSNO which was released in 2019 on Linn Records to critical acclaim, and similarly with symphonies No. 2 and 5 in 2020.

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Dvorak Cello Concerto & Wagner Siegfried Idyll, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic

(June 2021)

[Dvorak’s Cello Concerto] was a performance shimmering with purpose; after the opening movement came a boldly lyrical adagio with its lament for Dvorak’s lost love through her favourite song Leave Me Alone, and a playful final allegro – playfulness replicatedin energetic playing from the Phil (with conductor Rory Macdonald literally bouncing on the box) which practically leapt off the screen.
[Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll] was a delicate, intimate piece of music making with plenty of starring moments for woodwind – oboist Jonathan Small and Helen Wilson on flute among them - and French horn, and with Macdonald shaping a series of burnished crescendos on the way to a radiant sunrise motif of three rising notes.

Arts City Liverpool****1/2

Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto no. 1 & Sibelius, Philharmonia Orchestra

Royal Festival Hall (April 2021)

How on earth can you make this concerto sound new? By dialling everything down and revealing the delicacy that lies behind the surface fireworks. Ably abetted by conductor Rory Macdonald… Macdonald shaped the orchestral sound in a way that allowed it to work, so that there was never any sense of coarseness or ostentation. It’s unexpected, but quite lovely, and made the normally barnstorming opening sound much more lyrical than usual… Macdonald and the orchestra met him with tone that matched the pianist beautifully, nowhere more so than in the dusky delicacy of the beginning and end of the slow movement. They then produced a showcase of colour for Sibelius’ King Christian II suite…

Simon Thompson, Bachtrack*****

CD: Thomas Wilson: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 5, Royal Scottish National Orchestra

Linn CKD643 (November 2020)

No 2 is in three movements; it is music of exalted rhetoric, edgy intensity and the solidest craftsmanship. No 5, his last completed work, is a superb single span that embraces a luminous excursion for strings. Splendid, devoted performances.

Paul Driver, The Sunday Times

Conductor Rory Macdonald elicits a performance of rhythmic vigour and emotional heft. …Wilson’s music has been neglected since his death. Here’s the reason that should change.

Ken Walton, The Scotsman

…both receive committed performances from Rory Macdonald’s orchestral force

BBC Music Magazine

The powering inevitability of a substantial opening movement not without its tender cameos; the mutable agitation of the central movement; the pugnacious Walton-inspired urgency of the finale: all are addressed with clear-minded singularity by Macdonald, begging the question, why is this work not performed more often?

Vox Carnyx​​

Rory MacDonald and the excellent Scottish forces give a precise performance, engaged and beautifully stripped down, adorning the work in alternately dark and dreamy colours.


Both works benefit from strongly committed performances by Rory Macdonald and his players.

Christian Hoskins, Gramophone

…throughout MacDonald keeps up the tension so that the whole movement unfolds in gripping form without any sense of sag. The performances from Rory MacDonald and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra are terrific, in both works they capture the concentrated element of Wilson's writing, but also bring out the many incidental beauties of his instrumental writing and ear for orchestral colour.

Robert Hugill, Planet Hugill*****​​

Rory Macdonald and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra commit themselves wholeheartedly, and do these often beautiful works full justice. The recording and production are excellent on all counts.

Hubert Culot, MusicWeb International

The Royal Scottish National Orchestra have once again been fastidiously prepared and (unsurprisingly for a Linn disc) sound magnificent under Rory Macdonald.

Richard Hanlon, MusicWeb International​​​

Macdonald and the RSNO approach the music with confidence and vigor


Thomas Wilson Symphonies Nos. 3 & 4 recording, Linn CKD 616

Royal Scottish National Orchestra / February 2019

Wilson’s Symphony No 3 is an absorbing and rigorous work in comparison and is arrestingly played by Macdonald’s RSNO.

Andrew Mellor, Gramophone

The sound is rich, full and present, while the orchestral performances under Rory Macdonald are dramatically charged, colourful, and assured...It is a winning disc in every way.

Fanfare *****

Rory Macdonald draws thrilling, punchy playing from the Royal Scottish National Orchestra...Fascinating, and a startling introduction to a very individual voice.

Graham Rickson, The Arts Desk

Le nozze di Figaro

Gothenburg Opera / September 2019

The Gothenburg Opera's choir and orchestra under the direction of Rory Macdonald sound just as I want that Mozart should be interpreted when it is at its best.

Thorvald Pellby Petterson, Swedish Radio P4 Sjuhärad

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