Hamish MacCunn’s career unfolded amidst the restructuring of British musical culture and the rewriting of the Western European political landscape. Having risen to fame in the late 1880s with a string of Scottish works, MacCunn further highlighted his Caledonian background by cultivating a Scottish artistic persona that defined him throughout his life. His attempts to broaden his appeal ultimately failed. This, along with his difficult personality and a series of poor professional choices, led to the slow demise of what began as a promising career. As the first comprehensive study of MacCunn’s life, the book illustrates how social and cultural situations as well as his personal relationships influenced his career. While his fierce loyalty to his friends endeared him to influential people who helped him throughout his career, his refusal of his Royal College of Music degree and his failure to complete early commissions assured him a difficult path. Drawing upon primary resources, Oates traces the development of MacCunn’s music chronologically, juxtaposing his Scottish and more cosmopolitan compositions within a discussion of his life and other professional activities. This picture of MacCunn and his music reveals on the one hand a talented composer who played a role in establishing national identity in British music and, on the other, a man who unwittingly sabotaged his own career.
'Oates offers a vivid portrait of MacCunn’s life, education and career in the context of his time and demonstrates his contribution to the making of British musical modernity... This is an insightful and detailed exploration of musical nationalism and the birth of ’British’ music in the closing years of the nineteenth century... of value to historical musicologists, cultural historians of British and Scottish art music and to today’s composers seeking insights into the evocation of landscape and other hallmarks of identity and heritage in the modern world. Composers may also find it to be a highly instructive examination of the complex relationship between artistic integrity and public perception.' Scottish Journal of Performance 'Hamish MacCunn (1868-1916): A Musical Life is a well-produced book which is typical of Ashgate Publishers. The paper quality is good, the binding is strong and the font is clear and readable. I am pleased that footnotes rather than endnotes have been provided. I always read them (or at least glance at them) so I am grateful for not constantly having to turn to the end of the chapter or book.' Music Web International 'Jennifer L. Oates has produced a comprehensive examination of the man in all his guises - teacher, opera conductor, composer, protagonist for the re-awakening of Scottish art music and family man. The author has not produced a ’hagiographical’ study, but has presented the man in his complexity ... for a detailed assessment of Hamish MacCunn’s entire musical and personal achievement, Jennifer Oates’ book is the place to start'. Music Web International ’Oates has here presented a cogent picture of MacCunn’s short life with many interesting details and the odd revelation. A useful list of works is found in the appendix’. Music and Letters