Alexander Campbell Mackenzie

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Sir Alexander Campbell Mackenzie (22 August 1847 – 28 April 1935), was a Scottish composer best known for his oratorios, violin and piano pieces, Scottish folk music and works for the stage. He is regarded, along with Sir Hubert Parry and Sir Charles Stanford, as one of the leaders of the British musical renaissance in the late nineteenth century

Mackenzie was born in Edinburgh, the eldest son of Alexander Mackenzie, an eminent violinist and conductor. He was sent at the age of 10 for his musical education to Sondershausen in Germany, where he entered studied under K. W. Ulrich and Eduard Stein, remaining there from 1857 to 1861, when he entered the ducal orchestra as a violinist. At this time he met Franz Liszt. On returning home, he won the King's Scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music, and studied there for three years, after which he established himself as a piano teacher in Edinburgh. He appeared in public as a violinist, taking part in Chappell's quartette concerts, and starting a set of classical concerts.

In 1870, he was appointed precentor of St George's Church, and in 1873, conductor of the Scottish vocal music association. In this period, his most important compositions were the Quartette in E flat for piano and strings, Op. 11, and an overture, Cervantes, which owed its first performance to the help of the great pianist von Billow, on whose advice he moved to Florence in order to compose. There, he composed the cantatas The Bride (Worcester, 1881) and Jason (Bristol, 1882), as well as his first opera, which was commissioned for the Carl Rosa Company, and written to a version of Merimee's Colomba. This was produced in 1883, and was the first of a short series of modern English operas; his second opera, The Troubadour, was produced by the same company in 1886; and his third, His Majesty, was a two-act comic opera produced by the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company at the Savoy Theatre in 1897. In 1884 his Rose of Sharon was given at the Norwich Festival; in 1885 he was appointed conductor of Novello's oratorio concerts. The Story of Sayid came out at the Leeds Festival of 1886; and in 1888 he was appointed principal of the Royal Academy of Music. The Dream of Jubal was produced at Liverpool in 1889, and in London soon afterwards. A setting of the hymn "Veni, Creator Spiritus" was given at Birmingham in 1891, and the oratorio Bethlehem in 1894. From 1892 to 1899 he conducted the Philharmonic Concerts, and was knighted in 1894.

He also wrote incidental music to plays, as, for instance, to Ravenswood, The Little Minister, and Coriolanus; concertos and other works for violin and orchestra, much orchestral music, and many songs and violin pieces. The romantic side of music appealed to Mackenzie far more strongly than any other. In the orchestral ballad, La Belle Dame sans Merci, he touches the note of weird pathos, and his sense of humour is revealed in the nautical overture Britannia. In the two "Scottish Rhapsodies" for orchestra, in the music to The Little Minister, and in a fantasia for pianoforte and orchestra on Scottish themes, he "seized the essential, not the accidental features of his native music". [1]

Mackenzie wrote books on Giuseppe Verdi (1913) and Franz Liszt (1920); he died in London in 1935.


  1. Sir Alexander Campbell Mackenzie Encyclopaedia Britannica 1911