William Conway began his career as a cellist in his home city of Glasgow. Following studies at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, the Royal College of Music and with Ralph Kirshbaum he was appointed principal cello of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, where he gave many performances as soloist and director including the first performance of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’ Strathclyde Concerto No 2 for cello, which he also recorded. He returned to the SCO as soloist in 2004 to perform this work as part of Max’s 70th birthday celebrations. His strong commitment to contemporary music has resulted in many concertos and solo works written for him, including the present work by James MacMillan, of which he is the dedicatee. William has also played for many music and dance collaborations – most notably with Rudolf Nureyev at the Edinburgh International Festival – and throughout his career he has held the post of principal cello with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, working with many great conductors including Karajan, Giulini, Maazel, Haitink, Harnoncourt and Abbado.
As Artistic Director of Hebrides Ensemble he combines his two passions – conducting and cello-playing. The Ensemble has commissioned over seventy works in the last twenty years, as well as giving notable performances of major twentieth-century works such as The Soldier’s Tale (Stravinsky), Pierrot lunaire (Schoenberg), and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’ chamber operas The Martyrdom of St Magnus and Le Jongleur de Notre Dame. Hebrides Ensemble has also recorded a CD of chamber music by Messiaen, and appeared at Wigmore Hall and at the Edinburgh International Festival, Aldeburgh, St Magnus and other major festivals.
William is Artistic Director and Head of Strings and Chamber Music at St Mary’s Music School, and works regularly with young musicians – notably at the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland, Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra and Australian Youth Orchestra. As a conductor he has also led many professional orchestras in Europe and America in wide-ranging repertoire. His concerts have attracted praise not only for the quality of performance but for the imaginative and exciting programming. He plays on a cello from 1695 by Giovanni Tononi of Bologna.