Peter Maxwell DaviesBorn 8 September 1934. Died 14 March 2016
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 in 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.
- Maxwell Davieshttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p04wv6x8.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p04wv6x8.jpg2017-03-17T13:00:00.000ZDonald Macleod explores the life and music of Peter Maxwell Davieshttps://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p04x4m4f
- LISTEN: The broadcast premiere of Peter Maxwell Davies's final work 'Movement for String Quartet' performed by the Behn Quartethttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p048lchl.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p048lchl.jpg2016-09-21T12:31:00.000ZThe first broadcast performance of some of the last music Peter Maxwell Davies wrote.https://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p048lcj8
LISTEN: The broadcast premiere of Peter Maxwell Davies's final work 'Movement for String Quartet' performed by the Behn Quartet
- Sir James MacMillan remembers Sir Peter Maxwell Davieshttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p03mtng8.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p03mtng8.jpg2016-03-15T18:28:00.000ZSean talks to Sir James MacMillan about the late Sir Peter Maxwell Davieshttps://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p03mtngw
Sir James MacMillan remembers Sir Peter Maxwell Davies
- Sir Peter Maxwell Davies: A Reel of Seven Fishermenhttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01z9j4r.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01z9j4r.jpg2014-05-17T20:38:00.000ZStephen Johnson explores Peter Maxwell Davies', A Reel of Seven Fishermen.https://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p01z9j5l
Sir Peter Maxwell Davies: A Reel of Seven Fishermen
Peter Maxwell Davies Tracks
Past BBC Events
Proms 2009: Prom 70
Proms 2004: Prom 27
Proms 2000: Prom 09
Proms 2000: Proms Composer Portrait 01
Proms 1999: Prom 08
Latest Peter Maxwell Davies News
Performances & Interviews from Similar Artists
Rhythmic drive and claustrophobic atmospheres
The extraordinary Oliver Knussen: Mark-Anthony Turnage and George Benjamin pay moving tribute
BBC SSO composer talks: James MacMillan
BBC Proms Inspire Session with James MacMillan
Turnage: I was challenged by Sir Simon Rattle
“You miss being in there”
Sir James MacMillan remembers Sir Peter Maxwell Davies
James MacMillan introduces The Gallant Weaver
Composers' Rooms: No.12 Mark-Anthony Turnage
Composers' Rooms: No. 8 James MacMillan