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Thea Musgrave


1928 -

Composer. Born in Barnton (Edinburgh), she began studying medicine at the University of Edinburgh, but spent her free time in the adjacent music school and soon transferred to a degree in music, graduating in 1950. She studied in Paris with Nadia Boulanger (1950-54) and with the American composer Aaron Copland (1958).

Her more than 150 works include the operas The Abbot of Drimock (1955), Mary Queen of Scots (premiered at the Edinburgh Festival in 1977), Simón Bolívar (1993) and Pontalba (2003) together with Turbulent Landscapes, a series of tone poems inspired by J. M. W. Turner's paintings (2003). She has also been responsible for a number of orchestral, choral and chamber works, including overtures, concertos for clarinet, horn and viola, and a Scottish Dance Suite (1969). Her Trumpet Concerto, which premiered at the Cheltenham Music Festival in 2019, was also inspired by paintings, these the work of her friend the Scottish artist Victoria Crowe (b.1945).

Musgrave was appointed Guest Professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 1970. She married an American musician in 1971 and spent an increasing amount of time in the USA, serving as Distinguished Professor at Queens College, City University of New York (1987 - 2002). She was awarded a CBE in 2002 and received the Queen's Medal for Music in 2018.

Musgrave attended the first Edinburgh Festival in 1947 as a student and has been regularly involved subsequently. She was presented with the Royal Medal of the Royal Society of Edinburgh by HRH Prince Edward in the Usher Hall during the Festival of 2018, which included performances as a celebration of her 90th birthday.


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