Princeton music professor Steven Mackey
Kah Poon
Mackey was on the road almost constantly during the winter and spring, bringing several works to the stage at last

Like many people, Princeton music professor Steven Mackey saw his work projects pile up during the pandemic. Numerous commissions and performances were either mothballed or put aside altogether as venues around the world shut down. While on sabbatical this year, however, Mackey, the William Shubael Conant Professor of Music and a Grammy-winning composer and electric guitarist, is working feverishly to catch up. He was on the road almost constantly during the winter and spring, bringing several works to the stage at last.

“This is one of the busiest years I’ve ever had, populated with high profile projects,” Mackey says. “Fingers crossed!”

In late January, conductor Andris Nelsons and the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) premiered Mackey’s “Concerto for Curved Space,” which was co-commissioned by the BSO and the 240-year-old Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. Mackey’s “vibrant music,” the BSO program notes stated, “embraces a wide range of influences, from Ludwig van Beethoven to modern rock.” The concerto, which Mackey wrote several years ago, was supposed to have made its world premiere in 2021, only to be postponed because of COVID.

Only a few weeks afterward, in late February, Mackey headed to Southern California to perform a new composition with the chamber orchestra Delirium Musicum. “Treeology,” which Mackey wrote with Billy Childs and Gabriella Smith *19, was commissioned by Thor Steingraber, the executive and artistic director of the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts at California State University, Northridge, to highlight the destruction of California’s redwoods, sequoias, and Joshua trees due to climate change. This, too, will be a world premiere, although excerpts of “Treeology” were played last year at The New York Times’ Climate Forward conference.

“These trees can’t fight for their own survival,” Steingraber told The Times in a preview last October. “I view these musical pieces as something of the voice of the trees.”

In April, Mackey returns to join the Princeton University Glee Club and the New Jersey Symphony to perform “RIOT,” written by Tracy K. Smith, former Princeton professor, poet laureate of the United States, and a Pulitzer Prize winner, to celebrate the symphony’s 100th anniversary. Performances will be April 21-23 in Richardson Auditorium, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, and State Theater New Jersey in New Brunswick.

To top that all off, record label Canary Classics recently released “Beautiful Passing, Music for Violin and Orchestra by Steven Mackey,” a CD of some of Mackey’s biggest orchestral works, performed by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and violinist Anthony Marwood. “Mackey’s distinctive lexicon . . . says things we all know in our musical minds but have never heard articulated in this way,” the online review Blogcritics said.

“Everything has exceeded expectations,” Mackey says. “Maybe it’s the perk of having outlasted the critics who disapproved of the electric guitar in classical music, because I’ve never had such consistently great reviews.”