Hamish MacCunn

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Hamish MacCunn
Hamish MacCunn.JPG
1889 Portrait of MacCunn by John Pettie.
Background information
Born (1868-03-22)22 March 1868
Greenock, Scotland
Died 2 August 1916(1916-08-02) (aged 48)
Genres Classical music
Occupation(s) Pianist
Instruments Piano

Hamish MacCunn (22 March 1868 – 2 August 1916) was a Scottish late Romantic composer, conductor and teacher. His opera Diarmid (libretto by the Marquis of Lome), was produced at Covent Garden on 23 October 1897.[1][2] His other music includes cantatas, concert overtures, part-songs, instrumental pieces and songs, all markedly Scottish in type. He had a genuine love of Scottish folksong, and although he lived in London he was a lifelong champion of Scottish music and of the country’s musical life.


Born in Greenock as James MacCunn,[3] the son of a shipowner, he went to London in 1883[4] and was educated at the Royal College of Music,[3] where his teachers included Sir Hubert Parry and Sir Charles Villiers Stanford.[5] His first success was with the overture The Land of the Mountain and the Flood on 5 November 1887 at the Crystal Palace,[6] and this remains far and away his best-known piece. It was followed by other compositions, always with a characteristic Scottish colouring. From 1888 to 1894 McCunn was a professor at the Royal College of Music,[5][7] where he had a long artistic association and friendship with Marmaduke Barton.

In 1888, he married Alison Pettie,[3] daughter of John Pettie, RA, who had painted MacCunn's portrait several times. They had one son. John Pettie was an enthusiastic musician, who helped MacCunn build up his career by organising concerts of his work. It was at this point that Carl Rosa commissioned MacCunn to write an opera on a Scottish subject. The world premiere of his first opera, Jeanie Deans, conducted by the composer, took place at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh on 15 November 1894.[8] He was for some years a conductor with the Carl Rosa Opera Company and subsequently to other companies.[5] A hectic programme of composing, conducting and teaching brought about a gradual deterioration in MacCunn's health, and he died in 1916 aged only 48.

Compositions (selective list)[edit]


  • 1883 – Fantasia Overture (unfinished)
  • 1885 – Cior Mhor, overture (fp. Crystal Palace, London, 27 October 1885)
  • 1886–87 – The Land of the Mountain and the Flood, concert overture, Op. 3 (fp. Crystal Palace, London, 5 November 1887)
  • 1887 – The Ship o’ the Fiend, ballad, Op. 5 (fp. St James's Hall, London, 21 February 1888)
  • 1888 – The Dowie Dens o’ Yarrow, ballad, Op. 6 (fp. Crystal Palace, London, 13 October 1888 )
  • 1896 – Highland Memories, suite, Op. 30 (fp. Crystal Palace, London, 13 March 1897)
  • 1900–09 – Four Dances

Choral and vocal[edit]

  • 1882–84 – The Moss Rose, cantata (fp. Royal Albert Hall [West Theatre], London, 10 December 1885)
  • 1887 – Lord Ullin's Daughter, cantata (fp. Crystal Palace, London, 18 February 1888)
  • 1886–88 – Bonny Kilmeny, cantata, Op. 2 (fp. Queens Street Hall, Edinburgh, 13 December 1888)
  • 1888 – The Lay of the Last Minstrel, cantata, Op. 7 (fp. City Hall, Glasgow, 18 December 1888)
  • 1889 – The Cameronian's Dream, cantata, Op. 10 (fp. Queens Street Hall, Edinburgh, 27 January 1890)
  • 1890 – Psalm VIII, for chorus and organ (fp. 2nd International Industrial Exhibition, Meggetland, Edinburgh, 1 May 1890)
  • 1891 – Queen Hynde of Caledon, cantata, Op. 13 (fp. City Hall, Glasgow, 28 January 1892)
  • 1900 – The Masque of War and Peace, for soloists, chorus and orchestra (fp. Her Majesty's Theatre, London, 13 February 1900)
  • 1905 – The Wreck of the Hesperus, cantata (fp. Coliseum Theatre, London, 28 August 1905)
  • 1908 – The Pageant of Darkness and Light, for soloists, chorus and orchestra (fp. Agricultural Hall, London, 4 June 1908)
  • 1912 – Livingstone the Pilgrim, for soli, chorus and or organ (fp. Royal Albert Hall, London, 19 March 1913)
  • 1896-1913 – Four Scottish Traditional Border Ballads (Kinmont Willie; The Jolly Goshawk; Lamkin; The Death of Parcy Reed), for chorus and orchestra (Nos. 1–3 fp. Victoria Hall, Sheffield, 19 April 1921; No. 4 fp. Queen's Hall, London, 25 March 1925)


  • 1894 – Jeannie Deans, opera (fp. Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, 15 November 1894)
  • 1897 – Diarmid, opera, Op. 34 (fp. Covent Garden Theatre, London, 23 October 1897)
  • 1904 – Prue, comic opera (unfinished)
  • 1905 – The Golden Girl, light opera (fp. Prince of Wales Theatre, Birmingham, 5 August 1905)
  • Breast of Light, Op. 36 (unfinished)




External links[edit]