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Donald Macleod focuses on Maxwell Davies's lifelong mission to improve the musical life of young people and to break down the barriers between composer, performer and audience.

BBC Radio 3 explores the music of Peter Maxwell Davies, who died a year ago this week at the age of 81. The contribution this former Master of the Queen's Music had made to the musical life of these islands as a hugely prolific composer, performer and teacher, is incalculable. Born in Salford in the 1930s, one of the composer's first musical memories was listening to foxtrot records under his parents' staircase as the bombs were falling during the Second World War. In the 1960s he was considered the 'enfant terrible' of new British music, writing the soundtrack for Ken Russell's controversial film 'The Devils' and even provoking an audience walk-out during the BBC Proms. However his music and life was to change as he came under the spell of the desolate Orkney islands, which he first visited in the early 1970s before moving there a few years later for the rest of his life.

Haunted by the lack of music education in his own schooling, Peter Maxwell Davies was a man on a mission. As Director of Music at Cirencester Grammar School from 1959-1962 he transformed how music was taught in schools in Britain. He encouraged pupils of all musical ability to take part and inspired children to play and perform music that they had composed themselves. Donald Macleod looks at the music Maxwell Davies wrote specifically for the school orchestra and choir as well as the later works written for education and community project in the Orkneys. Central to his musical philosophy was that there should be no barriers between composer, performer and audience - a philosophy he put to the test in a series of works for instrumental soloist and chamber orchestra, the Strathclyde Concertos.

The Crusader, from Five Klee Pictures
Philharmonia Orchestra
Peter Maxwell Davies, conductor

O Magnum Mysterium
Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama Ensemble
Choir of St Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh
Matthew Owens, conductor

Dances from The Two Fiddlers
Scottish Chamber Orchestra
Peter Maxwell Davies, conductor

Seven Songs Home
Choir of St Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh
Peter Maxwell Davies, conductor

Strathclyde Concerto No.7, for Double Bass and Orchestra (second movement)
Duncan McTier, double bass
Scottish Chamber Orchestra
Peter Maxwell Davies, conductor.

1 hour

Music Played

  • Peter Maxwell Davies

    Five Klee pictures

    Conductor: Peter Maxwell Davies. Performer: BBC Philharmonic.
    • COLLINS CLASSICS.
    • 1460-2.
  • Peter Maxwell Davies

    O Magnum mysterium [6 Carols only]

    Conductor: Matthew Owens. Performer: RSAMD Contemporary Ensemble. Performer: St Mary's Cathedral Edinburgh Choir.
    • Delphian.
    • DCD34037.
  • Peter Maxwell Davies

    Dances from 'The Two Fiddlers',

    Conductor: Peter Maxwell Davies. Performer: Scottish Chamber Orchestra.
    • UNICORN.
    • DKP CD 90-70.
  • Scottish Chamber Orchestra

    Dances from The Two Fiddlers

    • UNICORN.
  • Peter Maxwell Davies

    Seven songs home

    Performer: St Mary's Music School Choir.
    • UNICORN-KANCHANA.
    • DKP (CD)-9070.
  • Peter Maxwell Davies

    Concerto (Strathclyde concerto no.7)

    Conductor: Peter Maxwell Davies. Performer: Duncan McTier. Performer: Scottish Chamber Orchestra.
    • Collins Classics.
    • CD 13962.
  • Scottish Chamber Orchestra & Ursula Leveaux

    Strathclyde Concerto No 7

    • COLLINS CLASSICS.

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