Soho Classical meets Angus MacRae

After closing the Piano show with his ‘Through Shadows’, Soho Classical finds out more about the London-based composer and pianist, Angus MacRae.

When did you start playing the piano and why?

My mum is a piano teacher who studied at the Royal College, so the house was always filled with music. I started when I has 5 – inspired by her and always in fierce competition with my younger sister (now a successful opera singer). I learned with a local teacher, ‘Mrs Webb’, whose house was filled with cats, King Charles Spaniels, and an ancient Steinway the size of her living room. She used to paint, too, and each week the canvas on her easel in the corner would have evolved a little, until it eventually migrated onto the wall by her staircase – I still remember the paintings vividly! Now well into her 80s, she’s still going strong back home in Guernsey. 

What is your favourite piece of music for the piano?

That’s an impossible question! Here are three I can’t choose between. 

  • Schubert Impromptu Op.90 No.3 in Gb Major. 
  • Brahms Op.119 1. Intermezzo in B Minor.
  • Chopin Piano Sonata No.3 in B minor, Op.58: IV Finale. I’ll also have to add his Nocturne Op.27 II in Db Major and Ballade No.1 in G minor.

I haven’t even mentioned Rachmaninoff. Sorry, I can’t decide!

Describe your own music in 3 words.

Yours to decipher

Tell us your first memory of London.

It’s an insignificant one but I remember it vividly. We were staying with some of my parents’ friends somewhere on the outskirts of town. It was 1998, and the World Cup final was on in the background (the first football game my mum had ever enjoyed). I grew up on an island without much urban wildlife, and I remember our absolute astonishment at seeing foxes in the garden. I recall thinking we were in this very wild, exotic place – a long way from home. Others remember seeing Big Ben – I remember the foxes. I still get pretty excited seeing foxes, if I’m honest.

What is one piece of classical music you couldn’t live without?

Stravinsky Firebird. This is orchestral writing at its absolute finest – unbelievably detailed and yet often so simple. There’s an incredible film of the composer himself conducting the piece’s finale. I could watch it for hours – some of the most beautiful music ever written.  

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