James Clark, Leader

“I was very honoured to be asked to lead COE by Claudio Abbado in its early formative days. Spending four years with this incredible orchestra was a wonderful experience so early in my career as an orchestra leader (in at the deep end!), working with the many gifted players from across Europe who were there right at the beginning of COE’s history. Working with Abbado, Schneider, Accardo, Pollini and Gardiner amongst many others, was always challenging, stimulating and rewarding. Having a say in the planning and artistic input was also for me a great privilege.
The idea to play small-scale orchestral repertoire with such a range of top-class chamber musicians was more or less unique at the time. The COE family grew from these early years into something very special for all involved, and into the force that it is today.
For me, COE was a hugely influential and developmental part of my onward career, and I will always treasure the friendships and professional journeys that I made with the orchestra during those early years.”


James Clark’s musical career reflects a wide variety of accomplishment. He has played chamber music with, amongst others, Stephen Kovacevich, Mikhail Pletnev, Steven Isserlis, Michael Collins, Adrian Brendel and Simon Trpceski. He has toured the world with the Endellion Quartet and the Raphael Ensemble, as Leader of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, and was also a founder member and first Concertmaster of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. James has led every major symphony orchestra in the UK holding leading positions with the Philharmonia Orchestra for 11 years, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and for the last 12 years with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. He has also appeared as Guest Concertmaster with the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam and the Tonhalle Orchestra in Zurich.

James is a Fellow of the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, and has been teaching there since 2010. He also gives regular Masterclasses on Orchestra Leadership, and tutors Chamber Music with advanced students. James is in demand for masterclasses and guest teaching at other major music colleges in the UK.

James appears as a recitalist and soloist on discs as diverse as Bach Concertos, Messiaen, Alkan and Maxwell Davies. His recording of Vaughan William’s Lark Ascending with the RLPO is often heard on Classic FM, and his chamber music discs include Brahms and Dvorak Sextets, the music of Frank Bridge and the Benjamin Britten String Quartets. With his duo partner Richard McMahon, James has given some 30 BBC Radio recital broadcasts, and many more as a chamber musician. He has played in every International Musicians’ Seminar (IMS) annually since 1997, performing with world-class chamber musicians in the UK and on tour.

As a conductor, James has worked with the Philharmonia, BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra amongst others. He conducted a series of concerts of the music of the Strauss family with the RLPO and Classic FM’s John Suchet, and has visited Venezuela several times to teach as part of El Sistema, and to conduct the Simon Bolivar Orchestra at the invitation of Gustavo Dudamel.

James began his musical career as a Chorister at King’s College Cambridge, where he sang solo at the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. Radio 3’s Building Library recently chose the 1972 recording of Britten’s Ceremony of Carols as their recommended version with James singing Treble Solo.

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