James Crabb was born in Dundee, Scotland in 1967 and started playing the accordion at the age of four. He studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen with classical accordion pioneer Mogens Ellegaard from 1985-92. He was 2nd Prize Winner of the Gaudeamus Interpreters competition, 1989 in Holland, and was awarded the Carl Nielsen Music Prize, Denmark in 1991. During his studies he received scholarships from The Countess of Munster Musical Trust, Martin Musical Scholarship Fund, Tillett Trust and Sir James Caird Trust. He gave over 150 performances for the Live Music Now series.
James Crabb’s acclaimed London debut in the Park Lane Group series at the Purcell Room in 1992 catapulted him to the international concert platform. Since then, he has performed worldwide, pioneering the classical accordion. He has appeared at festivals including Edinburgh, the London Proms, Belfast, Lucerne, Sydney Millennium, Cheltenham, Aldeburgh, Kuhmo, Brisbane Biennale, ISCM World Music Days and the Gulbenkian Foundation’s Nordic Days.
Critics internationally have praised his virtuosity and versatile musicianship. He is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading exponents and ambassadors of his chosen instrument.
James has performed with conductors such as Daniel Barenboim, Elgar Howarth, Martyn Brabbins, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Gunter Schüller, Markus Stenz, Michael Schønwandt, Susanna Mälkki and Peter Eötvös. He has been soloist with many orchestras including the BBC Scottish, the Philharmonia, London Philharmonic, Sydney, and Melbourne symphony orchestras; and ensembles such as the London Sinfonietta, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, Paragon Ensemble, Almeida Ensemble, Nash Ensemble, Australian Chamber Orchestra, Rotterdam Philharmonic and the Kuhmo Virtuosi. He has had several successful chamber-music collaborations with the violinist Dimitry Sitkovetsky.
James’ great passion and acclaimed authority for the music of Astor Piazzolla have been highlighted by several concert performances with the original members of Piazzolla’s Quintet, Horacio Malvicino, Hector Console and Fernando Suarez-Paz. He is also featured on the film portrait of Astor Piazzolla. (BBC/Opus Arte OA0905)
In 2003, his highly acclaimed recording as soloist and arranger of the works of Astor Piazzolla with the Australian Chamber Orchestra was released. (Song of the Angel, Chandos CH10163)
James also appeared as soloist with the ACO in Japan and Europe. With the orchestra’s leader Richard Tognetti, he performed at the opening ceremony of the 2003 Rugby World Cup in Sydney, to a stadium audience of 83.000 and an estimated 2 billion TV viewers worldwide.
His second recording of Piazzolla’s music in its original quintet instrumentation with Tognetti, Vassilev, Bibeau and Martin, was released in 2005 (Tango Jam Vol.1, Mulberry Hill Recordings MHR-C001).
His best-selling accordion duo debut recording in 1996 with his colleague Geir Draugsvoll of transcriptions of Stravinsky’s Petrouchka and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition (EMI Classics 569072) was re-released in 2002. The duo performs regularly worldwide and collaborates frequently with the Tero Saarinen Dance Company from Finland. Recent performances of Petrouchka with Saarinen include the Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival, broadcast live on Finnish national television and in St Petersburg as part of a cultural gift to the city from the Finnish Government.
James Crabb has recorded for several labels including NMC, Classico, DaCapo, Simax and ABC Classics, and makes regular radio and TV broadcasts. He gave the first ever solo recital recording for the Sky TV Digital Arts Channel.
World premiere performances and recordings include works by Harrison Birtwistle, Thomas Adès, Luciano Berio, John Casken, Sofia Gubaidulina, Django Bates, Sally Beamish, Elena Kats-Chernin, Gordon McPherson and Lyell Cresswell.
Recent projects have included concerts and recordings with pop stars Martin Hall, Neil Finn and Patti Smith.
He has an ongoing collaboration with multi-media sound designers Ian Dearsden and David Sheppard alias ‘Sound Intermedia’, highlighted by their recent critically acclaimed work ‘Helix’ and has recorded the music for Arc Dance Company’s production of Hamlet composed by Ian Dearsden.
Highlights of 2004-2005 included performances with the Scottish Ensemble, Paragon Ensemble, London Sinfonietta, Stavanger Symphony Orchestra, Via Salzburg and the English Sinfonia.
In 2005 he directed from the accordion two very successful new opera productions in Denmark; firstly the world premiere of Andy Pape’s Simsalabad, and secondly Astor Piazzolla’s Maria de Buenos Aires, which was the Royal Danish Opera’s production marking the opening of the chamber scene of the new opera house in Copenhagen.
James was involved in comic music-theatre for several years with the Danish percussionist and entertainer Thomas Sandberg. Described as a fusion of Monty Python, Spike Jones and Jacques Tati, Standard (2000) and Dask (2003) productions have both been awarded the prestigious Danish Theatre Prize.
James Crabb has been professor of classical accordion at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen since 1995 and held a guest professorship at the University of Music and Dramatic Arts in Graz, Austria from 1995-2002. He has also given master-classes at music institutions including the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Rotterdam Conservatorium and Toronto University.
James Crabb plays on a Pigini Mythos No.4 model (1992) instrument, tuned and prepared by Leonid Setrakov.