Peter Maxwell Davies
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1934-09-08
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Peter Maxwell Davies

Peter Maxwell Davies Biography (BBC)

Any attempt to define the output of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies demands an appreciation of its sheer breadth and abundance – from the mainstream European modernism identified in his music of the 1950s, via the dramatic iconoclasm characteristic of works from the 1960s and the naturalistic soundscapes created after his move to Orkney in the early 1970s, to the implicit Classicism of the series of symphonies and concertos that span the 1980s and 1990s.

This extends now to a body of ‘light’ music, including the popular An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise (1985) and Mavis in Las Vegas (1997), whose overt espousal of dance styles seems a world away from the disturbing incorporation of foxtrots in St Thomas Wake or Eight Songs for a Mad King (both 1969).

Even so, there is an integrity to Davies’s approach that has been conscious and thoroughgoing: the development of a strong and personal compositional technique at the service of artistic communication and the active engagement of performers and audiences. Formative in this were studies with Goffredo Petrassi in Rome (1957–8) and Roger Sessions in Princeton (1962–4), between which Davies taught at Cirencester Grammar School, writing the first of his works for children and amateur performers. The urge for theatrical expression initially found focus in works for the Pierrot Players (later The Fires of London) and subsequently bore fruit in full-scale operas – Taverner (1962–8, 1970), The Martyrdom of St Magnus (1976), The Lighthouse (1979), Resurrection (1987), The Doctor of Myddfai (1995) – and ballets, Salome (1978) and Caroline Mathilde (1990).

The particular qualities of light, land and sea associated with Orkney leave their first aural traces in vocal pieces such as Hymn to St Magnus (1972) and Stone Litany (1973) and continue through orchestral textures to the Orkney Saga series, begun in 1997. Seven numbered symphonies (1976–2000) and an Antarctic Symphony (2000) explore concerns for large-scale structural coherence in the post-tonal era. This corpus is counterbalanced with a recent concentration on chamber music, which includes a piano trio (Voyage to Fair Isle, 2002) and Clarinet Quintet (2004) and is crowned by a cycle of Naxos String Quartets (begun in 2002), together with a proliferation of choral music, from the substantial oratorios Job (1997) and Canticum canticorum (2001) to the more intimate Missa parvula (2002) and a variety of other liturgical pieces with and without accompaniment.

Through numerous conducting engagements in Europe and the USA, Davies maintains direct contact with those for whom his profusion of works is created. His succession of honours continued in March 2004 with the appointment as Master of The Queen’s Music. His fulfilment of the role to date has produced the large-scale Commemoration Sixty, to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, and many effective miniatures. Following his collaboration in 2006 with Andrew Motion on an anthem for the Queen’s 80th birthday, The Golden Rule, Davies again set words by the former Poet Laureate in the oratorio The Five Acts of Harry Patch (2008) by way of a tribute to the last-surviving British soldier to have fought on the Western Front during the Great War, who sadly died in July 2009.

Profile © Peter Owens

Peter Maxwell Davies Biography (Wikipedia)

Sir Peter Maxwell Davies CH CBE (8 September 1934 – 14 March 2016) was an English composer and conductor. In 2004 he was made Master of the Queen's Music.

As a student at both the University of Manchester and at the Royal Manchester College of Music, he formed a group dedicated to contemporary music, the New Music Manchester, with fellow students Harrison Birtwistle, Alexander Goehr, Elgar Howarth and John Ogdon. His compositions include eight works for the stage, from the monodrama Eight Songs for a Mad King, which shocked the audience in 1969, to Kommilitonen!, first performed in 2011. He wrote ten symphonies, the first from 1973–76, the tenth ("Alla ricerca di Borromini") in 2013.

As a conductor, he was Artistic Director of the Dartington International Summer School from 1979 to 1984. From 1992 to 2002 he was associate conductor/composer with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, a position he also held with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra.

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Peter Maxwell Davies Performances & Interviews


Peter Maxwell Davies Tracks

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Peter Maxwell Davies
Caroline Mathilde - Suite from Act 2
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Caroline Mathilde - Suite from Act 2
Peter Maxwell Davies
Farewell to Stromness
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Farewell to Stromness
Peter Maxwell Davies
Fantasia on a Ground (Fantasia and Two Pavans)
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Fantasia on a Ground (Fantasia and Two Pavans)
Peter Maxwell Davies
Lullabye for Lucy
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Lullabye for Lucy
Peter Maxwell Davies
An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise
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An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise
Peter Maxwell Davies
A Sad paven for these distracted tymes for string quartet
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A Sad paven for these distracted tymes for string quartet
Carlo Gesualdo
2 Motets arr. Maxwell Davies for brass quintet
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2 Motets arr. Maxwell Davies for brass quintet
Julius Eastman
Eight Songs for a Mad King - the first song
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Eight Songs for a Mad King - the first song
Peter Maxwell Davies
Farewell To Stromness
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Farewell To Stromness
Peter Maxwell Davies
Lullabye for Lucy
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Lullabye for Lucy
Peter Maxwell Davies
Yesnaby Ground
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Yesnaby Ground
Peter Maxwell Davies
Farewell to Stromness (The Yellow Cake Revue)
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Farewell to Stromness (The Yellow Cake Revue)
Peter Maxwell Davies
Farewell to Stromness, arr. T Walker for guitar [orig. piano]
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Farewell to Stromness, arr. T Walker for guitar [orig. piano]
Nash Ensemble
String Quintet
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String Quintet
Peter Maxwell Davies
Maxwell Davies: Lullaby for violin and cello
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Maxwell Davies: Lullaby for violin and cello
Peter Maxwell Davies
Farewell to Stromness
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Farewell to Stromness
Peter Maxwell Davies
Eight Songs for a Mad King (Proms 2017)
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Eight Songs for a Mad King (Proms 2017)
Peter Maxwell Davies
Quartet movement for strings [1952]
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Quartet movement for strings [1952]
Peter Maxwell Davies
Sonata for violin and piano [2008] (opening)
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Sonata for violin and piano [2008] (opening)
Peter Maxwell Davies
Ebb Of Winter - Concert Overture
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Ebb Of Winter - Concert Overture
Peter Maxwell Davies
Pole Star March For Brass Quintet
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Pole Star March For Brass Quintet
Peter Maxwell Davies
Symphony No. 1: 2nd movement; Lento - andante con moto
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Symphony No. 1: 2nd movement; Lento - andante con moto
Peter Maxwell Davies
Symphony No.10: Alla ricerca di Borromini (opening)
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Symphony No.10: Alla ricerca di Borromini (opening)
Peter Maxwell Davies
Yesnaby Ground
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Yesnaby Ground
Peter Maxwell Davies
Violin Sonata, Op. 289 (excerpt)
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Violin Sonata, Op. 289 (excerpt)
Peter Maxwell Davies
A Postcard from Sanday
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A Postcard from Sanday
Peter Maxwell Davies
Lullaby
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Lullaby
Peter Maxwell Davies
The House of Winter
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The House of Winter
Peter Maxwell Davies
Farewell to Stromness
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Farewell to Stromness
Peter Maxwell Davies
Carolisima
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Carolisima
Peter Maxwell Davies
3 Voluntaries, Op. 61: No. 1. Psalm 124 (after David Peebles)
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3 Voluntaries, Op. 61: No. 1. Psalm 124 (after David Peebles)
Peter Maxwell Davies
Taverner - Points and Dances (Act 1)
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Taverner - Points and Dances (Act 1)
Peter Maxwell Davies
Naxos Quartet No. 5: Lighthouses of Orkney and Shetland: I - Largo
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Naxos Quartet No. 5: Lighthouses of Orkney and Shetland: I - Largo
Peter Maxwell Davies
A Sea of Cold Flame for baritone and ensemble
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A Sea of Cold Flame for baritone and ensemble
Peter Maxwell Davies
Symphony No.9 (BBC SSO 2016-17 Season)
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Symphony No.9 (BBC SSO 2016-17 Season)
Peter Maxwell Davies
Lullabye for Lucy
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Lullabye for Lucy

Lullabye for Lucy

Choir
St Mary'S Music School Choir
Peter Maxwell Davies
Symphony no. 10, iv. Part Four: Adagio
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Symphony no. 10, iv. Part Four: Adagio
Peter Maxwell Davies
Edinburgh Service - Magnificat and Nunc Dimitis
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Edinburgh Service - Magnificat and Nunc Dimitis

Edinburgh Service - Magnificat and Nunc Dimitis

Choir
St Mary'S Cathedral Edinburgh Choir
Conductor
Matthew Owens
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Playlists featuring Peter Maxwell Davies

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