The emergence of the classical accordion as a recognised and respected instrument on the UK concert platform is due in no small way to the efforts and achievements of Owen Murray who has single-handedly pioneered an awareness and enthusiasm for the instrument in the classical music world. Overcoming unfamiliarity and negative attitudes, he has not flinched from his committed campaign to raise the instrument’s status. He has inspired not only a new generation of young performers, but has also commissioned a considerable body of works from British composers.
Born in Scotland, Owen Murray studied with Mogens Ellegaard at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen. He graduated in 1982 and returned to Great Britain where he campaigned, through his playing and teaching, for the acceptance of the accordion at conservatory level. In 1986 he was invited by the Royal Academy of Music in London to establish an accordion department, and appointed Professor - the first appointment of its kind in the UK. Under his dedicated tutelage, a distinguished line of young players has contributed significantly to the accordion’s continuing development, many of his students winning prestigious competitions and embarking on successful careers themselves.
The conferment of an Hon.RAM in 1993 – the Academy’s highest honour, is testimony enough to Owen Murray’s success on the concert platform and pays tribute to the success with which he has fully integrated the accordion into the life and work of one of the world’s leading music conservatories. Past recipients of the Hon.RAM have included Claudio Abbado, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Daniel Barenboim, José Carreras, Pablo Casals, Yehudi Menuhin, Oliver Messiaen, Itzhak Perlman, Mstislav Rostropovich, Leonard Slatkin and Alfred Schnittke.
Owen Murray has performed with many of the world's leading orchestras including the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Sir Andrew Davis, Mark Elder (1998 Proms), Martyn Brabbins and Jiri Belohlavek, the BBC Concert Orchestra, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) under Sir Simon Rattle, The BBC National Orchestra of Wales, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Glyndebourne Opera Touring Orchestra under Elgarth Howarth, the London Philharmonia Orchestra under Martyn Brabbins, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the Paragon Ensemble (Glasgow), the Goldberg Ensemble (Manchester), the Royal Academy of Music Orchestra (London) under Lynn Harrell and the SWF Sinfonieorchestra Baden-Baden (Germany), The Hungarian Radio Symphony Orchestra under Adam Fischer and the Royal Danish Orchestra.
Owen Murray has performed at many of the world's leading festivals including the Edinburgh International Festival, the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, London, the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, Aldeburgh, the St. Magnus Festival, the Glyndebourne Opera Summer Festival, the Paris Autumn Festival, the Salzburg International Festival, Beijing International Accordion Festival.
Among Owen's first performances have been the premieres of the Concerto by John Webb, Edward McGuire, John McLeod; the award winning work 'Serenade on the Shores of the Cosmic Ocean' for classical accordion and string quartet by Poul Ruders, and numerous solo works. The UK premiere of Astor Piazzolla’s 'Tres Tangos' and Concerto for guitar and bandoneon.
He has also performed the accordion part in the UK premiere of Sir Harrison Birtwistle’s opera 'The Last Supper' at Glyndebourne and the world premieres of Sofia Gubaidulina’s 'Figures of Time' and Per Nørgaard’s 'Terrains Vagues'.