09 Mar 2014
A Wall of Music receives world premiere at Southbank Centre
On 18 March, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’ A Wall of Music receives its world premiere at the Royal Festival Hall, London, as part of the Southbank Centre’s Pull Out All The Stops organ festival. Commissioned by the Southbank Centre in celebration of the newly restored Royal Festival Hall organ, A Wall of Music is scored for massed children’s choir, brass and orchestra and organ.
The world premiere performance is given by organ soloist David Goode together with children from Southbank Centre’s Voicelab; The Sage, Gateshead; Bridgewater Hall, Manchester; and Town Hall & Symphony Hall, Birmingham, with brass players from the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Youth Brass, conducted by Jessica Cottis. The text is drawn from a poem written by Jo Shapcott.
10 Feb 2014
Press acclaim for Sir Peter Maxwell Davies's Symphony No.10: Alla ricerca di Borromini
On Sunday 2 February, the London Symphony Orchestra gave the world premiere performance of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’s Symphony No.10: Alla ricerca di Borromini at the Barbican Hall, conducted by Sir Antonio Pappano. The orchestra was joined by the London Symphony Chorus, directed by Simon Halsey, and baritone soloist Markus Butter.
The symphony, co-commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia and Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra, was highly praised in the British and international press:
"This work turns on its head the old trope about architecture being frozen music. Here is music functioning as liquid architecture: monumental, certainly, but lightened by a grace and brilliance worthy of the buildings that inspired it."
New York Times
“It's put together with an unfailingly sure touch. The orchestral writing is vivid and, for the brass especially, often fiercely virtuosic. The baritone part is effectively a dramatic scena, overlaid on the mostly serene and homophonic choral writing, and all three layers were beautifully, precisely presented in Pappano's performance...One of the most movingly personal of Davies's recent scores, and a major new symphony.”
“A perfect 10: Peter Maxwell Davies has defied cancer to produce a triumphant symphony. Davies has come up with a 43-minute work that may be idiosyncratically (Proustianly?) “in search of” the 17th-century suicidal architect Francesco Borromini, but enlists a baritone soloist and a large chorus to that end, transforming symphony into drama and, for all the bleakness of the subject, achieving an affirmation of the transcendent power of art…
In the finale Davies rises to the most ardently operatic writing he has yet produced, and the baritone Markus Butter projected it with fierce conviction. Throughout the death scene, the chorus — the LSO Chorus transparently eloquent — imperturbably intones the names of the great Borromini churches, the thing that survives of him. And they have the a cappella last word: a D minor hymn, blended with the baritone’s farewell invocation of St Cecilia, that seems to offer a hint — Mahler fashion? — of resurrection.”
"Creativity, mortality and renewal: this was the collective message that imprinted itself on our hearts."
“Though later dipping into spikily atonal areas, this new work mostly gravitates to tonal centres and offers a broadly accessible sound world, richly scored with extended woodwind and tuned percussion sections. Burbling marimba chords and the subterranean purr of contrabass clarinet proved particularly memorable touches, while the clang of hard mallets on tubular bells and vibes depicting the sound of construction were absolutely central to the work’s purpose... [a] substantial and complex new work."
Arts Desk *****
“Long brooding passages of counterpoint, in his unmistakable orchestral palette that mingles the dark colours of Sibelius with brilliant flecks of glockenspiel and bells, and obstreperous brass fanfares.”
“Plenty of meat here for conductor Antonio Pappano’s theatrical flair; for the London Symphony Chorus too, often bathed in luminous winding harmonies; beautiful to hear.”
London Symphony Orchestra gives the world premiere of Maxwell Davies’ Symphony No. 10
On Sunday 2nd February 2014, the London Symphony Orchestra gives the world premiere performance of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’ Symphony No. 10 at the Barbican Hall, under the baton of Sir Antonio Pappano. The LSO are joined in the performance by the London Symphony Chorus and baritone soloist Markus Butter.
Max’s Symphony No. 10 is co-commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestra of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia and the Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra.
Symphony No. 10, for orchestra, chorus and baritone soloist, tells of the story of the life and death of seventeenth-century Italian architect Francesco Borromini, a leader in the Roman Baroque style, and his rivalry with Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The text of the symphony is drawn from Borromini’s own Opus Architectonicum and poetry by Giacomo Leopardi.
Max has had a lifelong love for, and connection with Italy having lived and studied there in his 20s under Goffredo Petrassi. Much of his music is inspired by Italian art, architecture and landscape, and his Naxos Quartet No. 7 was also inspired by Borromini.
Max was hailed as a ‘master symphonist’ in the Telegraph in 2011. Symphony No. 10 constitutes a significant achievement, made all the more special in his 80th birthday year.
Click here for further information about Maxwell Davies’ Symphony No. 10.
01 Jan 2014
Sir Peter Maxwell Davies becomes Member of the Order of Companions of Honour
Sir Peter Maxwell Davies has been appointed Member of the Order of the Companions of Honour in the New Year 2014 Honours List in recognition of his services to music.
The Order of the Companions of Honour is conferred on people who have made a pre-eminent and sustained contribution in the arts, science, medicine or government. There are currently 39 other Companions, among them Sir David Attenborough, Stephen Hawking and Sir Harrison Birtwistle.
On his new appointment, Maxwell Davies said:
“I am delighted to be joining such distinguished company in receiving the Order of the Companions of Honour. It is vital that society acknowledges the importance of the arts and related fields, and, for me, this honour is recognition for the art of composition and classical music in general. Anything that raises the profile of our art form is both wonderful and most welcome.”
Maxwell Davies was made a CBE in 1981 and knighted in 1987.
30 Nov 2013
Fanfare; Saffron Walden receives world premiere at opening of Saffron Hall
On 30 November, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’ Fanfare; Saffron Walden receives its world premiere at the Celebratory Opening Concert of Saffron Hall in Saffron Walden, Essex.
Fanfare; Saffron Walden, commissioned for the event, will be performed by Britten Sinfonia’s brass players and will open an exciting and eclectic programme conducted by Christopher Hogwood featuring soloists including Mark Padmore, Imogen Cooper and Barbara Hannigan.
Click here for further information about the concert.
Success for Sir Peter Maxwell Davies premiere with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra
On 8 November 2013, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’ Ebb of Winter received its world premiere at Glasgow City Halls by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra under the baton of Oliver Knussen. Ebb of Winter was commissioned by the orchestra in honour of their 40th anniversary year and its premiere performance was met with great enthusiasm and warm-hearted support, as reflected in the press reviews:
“Inspired by the ever changing climactic conditions in the islands that Maxwell Davies has made his home since 1970, this substantial and effective 15-minute work, commissioned for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s 40th anniversary, is something of a dissonant reflection on the brooding and tenacious squalls blowing through an Orkney winter.
The first thing that hits you is the sheer exuberance of this 20-minute tone poem. Inspired by the unpredictable, ever-changing Orkney weather, it dances with mercurial fluidity, long strains of sinewy melody constantly buffeted by luminous sprays of chattering brass and woodwind. A startling strain of warm-hearted Romanticism underpins everything, exerting a softening effect on some of the old Max austerity that lurks bullishly beneath the surface.
Oliver Knussen conducted a sparkling first performance, matching ear for detail with a powerful sense of build towards the final blazing major chord.”
Scotsman, November 2013
“Most striking about the 15-minute work, whose premiere was conducted with care and clarity by Oliver Knussen, were the SCO's vivid orchestral textures and the way that Maxwell Davies nimbly weaves material between instruments. The horns open with a gallant theme that soon echoes on a mournful oboe. There's restlessness in the basses and frenetic, tangled winds that cut to hushed strings, as if a walker struggling through a fierce wind suddenly rounds a corner and finds peace. The work nearly ends in a blazing major triad, but at the last minute a single note of close dissonance adds overtones that ring out defiantly. There's nothing particularly new about the techniques of Ebb of Winter. But its impact is arresting and its haunting soundworld couldn't be from the pen of any other composer.”
Guardian, November 2013
“After opening in fanfare, Maxwell Davies’s squabbling orchestral sections dissipated into calm as if in the wake of a storm, yet dark clouds lingered obstinately on the horizon, from the honking woodwind to the discordant strings. Even if one did not know its inspiration, Maxwell Davies’s folk-inflected, raw sound world reeked unmistakably of Orkney’s vast skies and deceptively empty landscapes. As we neared the close, an orchestral ray of light, hard-won, shone down on the musical landscape as if arduously heaving off the pall of winter.”
Times, November 2013
“You could take the piece any way you want: in the pictorial literalism of the music (the realisation of "slippery underfoot" the best I have ever heard) or the sun-kissed but freezing atmospheres throughout the piece, with its dazzling, radiantly spring-like major chord at the end.
But my own preference in this wee masterwork is the (by now and long since established) natural Scottish accent in the music that underpins its identity, and the dance-like figuration, lilt and momentum that propels the piece in its later stages. And, for me, the fact that Max's music is still dancing, which I said to the great man after the performance, is one of the most enduring qualities of his work.”
Herald Scotland, November 2013
World premiere at St Magnus International Festival and the City of London Festival
Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’ Oboe Quartet receives its world premiere at St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, on 21st June 2013. Oboe Quartet is co-commissioned by the St Magnus Festival and the Hebrides Ensemble.
Click here for further detail.
On 23rd June 2013, Maxwell Davies’ Capstone for organ receives its world premiere performance at the City of London Festival. Commissioned by St Paul’s Cathedral, Capstone is performed at the Cathedral by its organist, Simon Johnson.
Click here for further detail.
08 Mar 2013
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra celebrates the music of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies
On 12th March at Cadogan Hall, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra gives a concert dedicated to the music of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, conducted by Martyn Brabbins.
The concert opens with Maxwell Davies’ Symphony No. 6 which was written for and premiered by the Royal Philharmonic in 1996 to celebrate its 50th birthday. Maxwell Davies’ Violin Concerto no. 1 follows, with Jack Liebeck as soloist. The concert closes with Maxwell Davies’ An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise. The composer will introduce each piece on stage.
Click here for further details about the concert.
Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’ A Winter Lamb received world premiere
As part of his role as Master of The Queen’s Music, each year Sir Peter Maxwell Davies writes a carol as a gift to Her Majesty The Queen.
The carol for 2012, A Winter Lamb, received its world premiere on 13th January at The Chapel Royal by The Choir of St James’ Palace, conducted by Andrew Gant. The text for this Epiphany carol is by George Mackay Brown.
Click here for further information about A Winter Lamb.
Sir Peter Maxwell Davies world premiere at Queen's Medal for Music Gala Concert
A new work by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies received its world premiere at the Queen’s Medal for Music Gala Concert at the Barbican, together with the presentation of the 2012 Queen’s Medal for Music.
The opening of the concert was heralded by Maxwell Davies’ Fanfare: Her Majesty’s Welcome, a London Symphony Orchestra commission for a mixed-ability ensemble. The work was played by the LSO together with sixty young musicians from across East London and students from the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, conducted by Timothy Redmond while the rest of programme featuring Elgar’s Enigma Variations and Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto were conducted by Robin Ticciati.
During the concert, Maxwell Davies presented the winner of the 2012 Queen’s Medal for Music, the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain.
Maxwell Davies’ opera The Lighthouse tours UK with English Touring Opera
Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’ chamber opera The Lighthouse tours the UK this month with English Touring Opera to critical acclaim. Based on the true story of the mysterious disappearance of the three Flannan Isles lighthouse keepers, a short documentary film was made about this fascinating tale:
The production opened at the Royal Opera House Linbury Studio, attracting many superb reviews in the press:
“Peter Maxwell Davies’s fictionalised reconstruction of this tale has been hugely successful since its premiere in 1980, and one can soon hear why. Perhaps nobody since Britten has so masterfully used music to create atmosphere – not just a subtle spookiness, but also a marvellously vivid seascape evoking the lurch of the waves, the salt in the spray, the cawing of the gulls.”
“This is a truly gripping yarn, and it’s not often one can say that of an opera.”
Telegraph, October 2012
“It does not take much to get the drama of The Lighthouse to work its dark magic… Maxwell Davies tests his performers to the limit. Out of his 12 musicians, the composer conjures a wealth of sounds, from foghorn and bird calls, to a chilling draught that raises goose bumps on the skin.”
Financial Times, October 2012
“Peter Maxwell Davies' macabre mystery story creates a very satisfying piece of theatre… We see the composer working with a fine paintbrush, creating sparse textures with little sustained forward motion… it is easy to see why The Lighthouse maintains a position in the repertory (four separate productions international this year alone).”
Arts Desk, October 2012
“Maxwell Davies makes no attempt to answer the unanswerable and, to his own brilliant libretto, spins a compelling huis clos whose supernatural edge recalls the plays of Conor McPherson and whose oblique colloquies smack of Harold Pinter… Peter Maxwell Davies has found a subject that could only work as opera, and he treats it to one of his most evocative scores. His beloved Orkney is everywhere in this music: the orchestration is steeped in its storms and gulls, all faithfully conveyed by the excellent Aurora Orchestra under Richard Baker.”
Classical Source, October 2012
1 October 2012
Composer in Residence at 2012 Trondheim Chamber Music Festival
September saw the 2012 Trondheim Chamber Music Festival welcome Sir Peter Maxwell Davies as its Composer in Residence.
Throughout the week, a great number of Maxwell Davies compositions were championed, ranging from solo pieces, trios and quartets to a fully-staged production of Cinderella in co-operation with the Norwegian National Opera & Ballet. Other highlights include a performance of Eight Songs for a Mad King sung by Intermusica baritone Leigh Melrose:
As Composer in Residence, Maxwell Davies also led workshops and coached string quartets who played several of his own works for the Trondheim International Chamber Competition.
Maxwell Davies’ residency represents a continued relationship between Trondheim and Intermusica composers – Brett Dean, HK Gruber and James MacMillan have all been Trondheim Composers in Residence in recent years.
Watch a video about Sir Peter Maxwell Davies at the Trondheim Chamber Music Festival (video partially in Norwegian):
World premieres for Sir Peter Maxwell Davies's two new choral works
This autumn sees the world premiere performances of two new Maxwell Davies choral works in London.
On 26 September, The Whispering Gallery is premiered at St Paul’s Cathedral as part of ‘Touching Eternity: An Evening of Poetry and Music’. Commissioned by the cathedral in celebration of the tercentenary of its completion, the choral work, whose text is taken from the final part of Resurgam by Sir Andrew Motion, is sung by the Choir of St Paul’s Cathedral under the direction of Andrew Carwood.
On 7 October, Maxwell Davies’ anthem for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, In a Wintered Byre, receives its world premiere at the Chapel Royal under the direction of Andrew Gant.
Acclaim for Maxwell Davies’ 9th Symphony premiere
Critical acclaim for the London premiere of Maxwell Davies’ 9th Symphony at the BBC Proms with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic conducted by Vasily Petrenko:
“This brilliantly crafted work — Haydnesque in duration, Mahlerian in scope — is far from the kind of ceremonial work one might expect from the master of the Queen’s music. Indeed, its attitude to militarism and war is not so far from Shostakovich’s in his Seventh and 10th. A memorable concert in a terrific week for British musicians at the Proms.“
Sunday Times, September 2012
“This new symphony is very much fired, too, by its own internal conflicts. Not only do its dark timpani rolls, its sounds and alarums, and its anarchic interpolations from brass sextet speak of the chaos of war, they also obliquely summon up spectres of royal pomp and circumstance... Does it celebrate, mourn or warn? Like the Shostakovich that followed it, it does all three simultaneously. And it is those collisions and ambivalences that give the work its power. The symphony is typical Maxwell Davies: the old anarchist peeping over the parapet of the status quo and finding cunning compositional means with which to hold together menace and mischief. The work’s main material is artfully transformed by interval and rhythmic bending. Vasily Petrenko and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic played the piece with meticulous commitment and assurance.”
The Times, September 2012
“Played without a break, the symphony unfolds darkly, before a brass sextet, seated above and to one side of the orchestra, introduces a succession of jaunty flourishes. These unleash a series of disintegrations and crises from which the remainder of the work seeks a fragile closure... indisputably one of Maxwell Davies’ most engaged orchestral works and it may well claim a lasting place in the repertoire.”
The Guardian, September 2012
“Undertones of war pervaded the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra’s return to the Proms [with] the London premiere of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’s Symphony No.9. A single movement protest against the futility of Britain’s involvement in the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan, Davies’s work builds slowly in unsettling waves of textured rhythm punctuated by blasts of distorted fanfare from a brass sextet positioned at arm’s length from the orchestra. The overall effect was disconcerting but intentionally so, as chief conductor Vasily Petrenko’s fastidious control ensured the piece remained coherent all the way to its brittle closure."
Liverpool Daily Post, September 2012
Maxwell Davies Symphony No. 9 is commissioned by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra and is published by Chester Music.
Click here for more details.
19 Jun 2012
On 9 June, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’s 9th Symphony received its World Premiere performance
On 9 June, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’s 9th Symphony received its World Premiere performance from the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra under Vasily Petrenko. The work is dedicated to Her Majesty The Queen in her Diamond Jubilee year and is a co-commission between the Royal Liverpool and Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestras. It will receive its London premiere from the RLPO and Petrenko on 23 August at the BBC Proms, followed by its Scandinavian premiere in Helsinki under John Storgårds next year.
Reviews for the World Premiere of Maxwell Davies’s 9th Symphony:
“Peter Maxwell Davies has been Master of the Queen's music since 2004 and his Ninth Symphony, given its world premiere by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic under Vasily Petrenko, is dedicated to the Queen on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee. If, however, you think this suggests something breezily celebratory, then you'd be wrong.
Representing Maxwell Davies at his most engaged, it's an angry work that bears witness to "our disastrous interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan – comparable only to the folly of the medieval crusades and the Crimean war." Maxwell Davies describes himself as "not pacifist as such". The symphony is not an attack on the military, but an indictment of the governmental instigation of meaningless slaughter.
It plays continuously, and the score derives its tensions from the conflict between the main orchestra and a brass sextet placed above it on the platform. Their devil-may-care incursions into the opening allegro usher in a brutal development, the violence of which rapidly escalates as the sextet then kicks off a series of insolent, horribly insensitive marches.
After a savage climax, a slow, occasionally discursive string threnody takes over, during which the brass intrusions gradually lose some ferocity and the music moves towards a tentative nobility. Hardgoing for the performers (above all, the brass) the piece found the RLPO at their precise, committed best and Petrenko at his most intense.”
“It’s a concentrated piece following a distinct pattern: a triumphant opening and first half, which is followed by a somewhat introverted and slow second part. Within the work, a brass sextet interpolates a number of fanfares – completely appropriate for the nature and dedication of the work.
The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, under Vasily Petrenko, gave a stylish, accomplished performance. It certainly deserves another outing and one is scheduled for August, when the RLPO makes its appearance with Petrenko at this year’s BBC Proms.”
“The broad design is certainly assured. Opposing tempos and characters interact, and the military music has an intrusive quality, at some points evoking Mahler, that fuels the ongoing argument. As a result, the single movement feels shorter than its 23 minutes.
Textures are more transparent than in some of Max’s earlier symphonies, but the coruscating tuned percussion and braying high trumpets mark the score as uniquely his.”
“Compared with some of Maxwell Davies' other symphonies the Ninth is quite concentrated - lasting around 25 minutes - but, similar to other works, it draws on a range of influences. There are military marches, touches of modality linked to medieval plainsong, even a reworking of the trio from Haydn’s String Quartet Op 54 No 2.
It’s scored for a large orchestra and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, under Vasily Petrenko, gave a stylish, accomplished performance.”
The Arts Desk
“It was both strange and strangely striking, the main body of the orchestra swirling in an ominous, other-worldly musical miasma or thundering in an urgent cacophony while a separate brass sextet offered a melodic but increasingly corrupted and perilously cock-eyed series of quasi-Edwardian military marches.”
02 May 2012
World premiere of Symphony No. 9 by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra on 9 June 2012
On 9 June 2012, Maxwell Davies’s Symphony No. 9 will receive its World Premiere from the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Vasily Petrenko. This landmark event in the history of British music will take place within a sold-out concert also featuring Britten’s National Anthem and Beethoven’s own Symphony No. 9. Maxwell Davies has dedicated his 9th Symphony to Her Majesty The Queen on the event of her Diamond Jubilee, and the work will receive a further performance from the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and Petrenko at this year’s BBC Proms, on 23 August.
For more details of the event please visit here.
19 Apr 2012
Maxwell Davies shortlisted for Royal Philharmonic Society awards
Sir Peter Maxwell Davies's opera Kommilitonen!, a story of student protest in the 20th century, has been shortlisted for the 'Opera and Music Theatre' category of the RPS Music Awards. The work was co-commissioned by the Royal Academy of Music and Juilliard School, and has received critical acclaim since its US premiere in November of last year.
Winners for the RPS Music Awards will be announced at the awards ceremony on the evening of Tuesday 8 May.
BBC Radio 3 will broadcast a special RPS Music Awards broadcast on Sunday 13 May at 2pm.
27 Mar 2012
NAXOS RE-RELEASES 17 MAXWELL DAVIES DISCS
This spring sees the first in a 17-disc series of re-releases by Naxos of the long-unavailable Collins Classics catalogue of Maxwell Davies's music. In a move which makes eight symphonies, numerous concerti, chamber, instrumental, vocal and musical theatre works attainable once more not only on CD but also for download, Naxos adds these recordings to their existing catalogue of Maxwell Davies's music on disc which includes his collection of 10 Naxos String Quartets which were commissioned by the record label.
This first disc features Maxwell Davies's Symphony No. 1 (1976) and Mavis in Las Vegas (1997), performed by the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and conducted by the composer. It is available for purchase here: http://www.naxos.com/catalogue/item.asp?item_code=8.572348
Maxwell Davies’s opera The Lighthouse is performed by the Boston Lyric Opera - 8,9,11 & 12 Feb
On 8, 9, 11 and 12 February 2012, Maxwell Davies’s opera The Lighthouse is performed by the Boston Lyric Opera in an eagerly-awaited new production conducted by David Angus at Boston’s John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum. The work, written in 1979 to a libretto by the conductor, is described as “a mystery story in the form of a chamber opera” and was inspired by a true incident from 1900 in which a lighthouse was discovered deserted of its three keepers, despite no sign of disturbance.
Please explore the following links for further information:
Boston Classical Review - a preview article on the production
clip:Maxwell Davies and David Angus discuss the opera
clip: A video showing the planning and building of the set
Maxwell Davies’s Kommilitonen! triumphs in New York
Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’s opera Kommilitonen! has received critical acclaim following its US premiere on 16 November 2011 in New York. Directed by David Pountney and performed by students of the Juilliard School, the work’s co-commissioners alongside the Royal Academy of Music in London, Maxwell Davies received praise from the New York Times for his “exhilarating score”, with the opera being labelled an “earnest and engaging creation” by the Associated Press and “a well-crafted and moving meditation on student activism” by the New York Post. The opera received two further performances on 18 & 20 November.
Press quotes for Kommilitonen! in New York:
“There are many impressive things about “Kommilitonen!,” the new opera by Peter Maxwell Davies, with a libretto by David Pountney, which had its American premiere at the Juilliard School on Wednesday night. Best of all is Mr. Davies’s exhilarating score. Here, for once, is a modern opera that exudes musical modernism.
Mr. Davies was a major figure in the European avant-garde. Over the years he may have softened the hard edges of his modernist language. But at 77 he still writes bracingly gritty and complex music. In his many dramatic works and unconventional operas, Mr. Davies has excelled at putting contemporary-music techniques to arresting theatrical purposes.”
The New York Times, 17 November 2011
"Kommilitonen!" is an earnest and engaging creation, an agitprop pageant that proves surprisingly entertaining. Moreover, the Juilliard Opera singers and orchestra, led by conductor Anne Manson, performed it with an enthusiasm and polish that had the 77-year-old composer beaming when he came out for his curtain call.
Davies' lifetime of experience writing large-scale compositions shows in his expert use of the orchestra. The rhythmically varied, basically tonal score is filled with snatches of melody that hint at Chinese marches, American spirituals and German lieder ' tunes that often melt into one another. In a compelling moment during the interrogation of the Chinese parents, a relentlessly upbeat chorus for the Red Guard plays against a string lament for the hapless victims.”
The Associated Press, 17 November 2011
“Rumors were that an “Occupy”-something group would disrupt Wednesday night’s US premiere of “Kommilitonen!” But the Juilliard Opera performance went off without offstage fireworks, and proved to be a well-crafted and moving meditation on student activism... A post-performance protest outside the theater suggested the 20 or so “Occupy Opera” demonstrators had at least done their homework: Among the slogans they chanted was a line from this opera’s rousing finale, “There is no quota on freedom!”
The New York Post, 17 November 2011
“With timid tonality pervading so many new operas, it was refreshing to hear the edgy, acerbic sounds of Peter Maxwell Davies's "Kommilitonen!" presented by the Juilliard School last week. Mr. Maxwell Davies and librettist David Pountney, who also directed, used that agitated quality and a range of musical styles to deftly weave together three tales of student political action.
Mr. Pountney's kaleidoscopic libretto and Mr. Davies's music vary the dramatic treatment of these stories, giving each a distinctive profile and keeping the show moving as it switches among them. Meredith (the fine baritone Will Liverman) narrates his experiences dispassionately. There are hints of spirituals, but his vocal line is contained and conversational, as though he were keeping emotion at bay in order to survive. The Weisse Rose group, led by the piercing, poignant high soprano of Deanna Breiwick as Sophie, is written as a small ensemble, and Mr. Davies brings out the passion of their commitment through soaring vocal writing, even when the text is a description of how to make indelible paint or the names and addresses in telephone books.”
The Wall Street Journal, 22 November 2011
The World Premiere of Kommilitonen! took place in March 2011 at London’s Royal Academy of Music. For press quotes and information please visit here.
For further details of Kommilitonen! please see here.
New York’s Juilliard School presents the US premiere of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies opera Kommilitonen!
Students of New York’s Juilliard School present the US premiere of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’s opera Kommilitonen! (Young Blood!) in performances on November 16, 18, and 20 2011. Co-commissioned by Juilliard and London’s Royal Academy of Music, the work features a libretto by acclaimed opera director and librettist David Pountney who directed the work’s world premiere in London in March 2011.
With the title translating as “fellow students”, Kommilitonen! was written specifically to be performed by students. The plot consists of three interlocking stories of students involved in political action crossing several 20th century generations, time-zones and cultures: protest against the Nazis in 1940’s Germany; struggling against oppression during the Chinese Cultural Revolution; and fighting racial prejudice in 1960’s America.
Sir Peter commented “I especially enjoy working with the young singers rising to the challenges of this project. I can’t resist such a wonderful opportunity and am grateful to the Principal for the support I have been shown. My new opera deals with brave students who stood up for what they believed in and triggers a wonderful example of adversity. It is very educational, probes deeply into the human psyche, and shows we should never under-estimate young people.”
Click here to read the reviews from the world premiere of Kommilitonen! in London, March 2011.
Aventa Ensemble gives the world premiere of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’s new work
On Tuesday 1 November, Maxwell Davies's Stormwatch, Stormfall will be premiered by Aventa Ensemble at the Phillip T Young Recital Hall, University of Victoria, Canada. The piece was commissioned by Aventa and written for horn trio. The premiere will be given by Darnell Linwood (horn), John Lowry (violin), and Miranda Wong (piano).
13 Sep 2011
On 15th September 2011 the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq premieresMaxwell Davies's "A Reel of Spindrift, Sky" in Erbil, Iraq.
On 15th September 2011 the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq premieres Maxwell Davies's "A Reel of Spindrift, Sky" in Erbil, Iraq. Written for the orchestra and its conductor Paul MacAlindin, to whom the work is dedicated alongside the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the work will be performed as the culmination of the orchestra's summer school in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, which brings together 45 young Kurdish, Arab and Turkmeni Iraqis.
23 Aug 2011
The Last Night of the Proms hosts the world premiere of Maxwell Davies's large-scale work "Musica Benevolens".
On 10th September 2011 the Last Night of the Proms hosts the world premiere of Maxwell Davies's large-scale work "Musica Benevolens" at London's Royal Albert Hall. Commissioned by the Musicians Benevolent Fund and written as a tribute to the outstanding fundraising work of the Promenaders' Musical Charities, "Musica Benevolens" will be performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Edward Gardner, joined by festival trumpeters from the Royal Military School of Music. To mark this special occasion promenader participation is invited during the performance of the piece, and throughout this year's BBC Proms season promenaders have submitted ideas for music-inspired texts, of which three will be chosen by Maxwell Davies and incorporated into the work for its Last Night of the Proms performance.
For more information please visit the BBC Proms website at http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/whats-on/2011/september-10/85.
To read Maxwell Davies's article about the BBC Proms, click here
28 Mar 2011
Critical acclaim for the world premiere of Maxwell Davies’s opera Kommilitonen!
Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’s new opera Kommilitonen! (Young Blood!) has received critical acclaim for its hugely successful world premiere performances on March 18, 21, 23 and 25. A joint commission between London’s Royal Academy of Music and New York’s Juilliard School, the opera was written specifically to be performed by students and focuses on three stories of 20th century student protest around the world: protest against the Nazis in 1940’s Germany, against oppression during the Chinese Cultural Revolution and fighting racial prejudice in 1960’s America.
The opera features a libretto by acclaimed opera director and librettist David Pountney, who directed these premiere performances at London’s Royal Academy of Music and will take the same role for the upcoming US Premiere production by the Julliard School in New York in November 2011.
“More than a decade after saying he had written his final theatre piece, the chance to compose a work for and about students has lured Peter Maxwell Davies back to opera.
Pountney also directs the immaculate RAM staging, [which] commutes effortlessly between the narratives, Davies's music delineating each strand with remarkable clarity. His score is extraordinarily fluent: the vocal lines are perfectly judged and the instrumental writing full of wonderful touches, with marching band, jazz trio, solo harp and erhu players on stage. It is as good as any theatre score he has ever composed.”
Five Stars, The Guardian
“The music works with exemplary theatrical skill; Maxwell Davies has coloured his score with snatches of American roots music, German art song and brassy Chinese marches without ever losing sight of the opera’s unifying goal. Here is proof that Maxwell Davies, who says he never intended to write another opera, still had a serious success inside him.”
“A master symphonist. It was a triumph: an extraordinary testament to the fact that, at the age of 76, his creativity is radiantly alive but more judicious than it was when he was half this age.
Kommilitonen! is an ensemble piece that prioritises collective singing – which from start to finish was magnificent. But the evening’s real star was Maxwell Davies, whose music gave these young performers something genuinely worthwhile to work with. It found distinctive style and colour for the separate stories, with convincing Weimar Republic expressionism for the White Rose episodes, and robust parodies of Maoist jingles for the Chinese ones. But it also had a heart and soul, touching profoundly spiritual depths in its recourse to scriptural quotations.”
“If you're looking for a glorious, heart-warming pageant of humanity, [Maxwell Davies’s] latest opera will do nicely. Maxwell Davies flits between sound worlds. Chinoiserie, German modernism and wonky Porgy and Bess succeed and bleed into each other. What emerges is a prolonged paean to Freedom, finding its most obvious form in a rousing hymn at the close.
More tender moments amaze: luminescent strings make a recipe for graffiti paint into a ray of hope; a celeste turns a hand-operated press into a Mozartean music box, and the entire German people stand transfixed by its magical leaflets.
It's a bold and beautiful assertion of the transformative power of truth.”
Five Stars, Evening Standard
“The score works strikingly well. Kommilitonen! visits Juilliard School, New York, its co-commissioner, in November, but I’m sure that won’t be the end of this stirring blast of an opera.”
“Peter Maxwell Davies’s astounds with the world premiere of his brilliant opera for students about protest movements.
The moral force that Davies and Pountney dramatise — positive in two of the strands, if negative in the other — is felt in the brilliance and blinding conviction with which this production is brought off.
the piece moves forward in an undoubtedly compelling way, helped by Glover’s dynamic direction, and the score has an energy belying the composer’s 76 years.
Davies not only exploits stylistic pastiche as deftly as ever, he raises it to a new dramatic level, allowing the illustrative elements — nightclub jazz, marching-band music, a discreet chinoiserie — to interpenetrate and form a language of their own. And his writing for chorus — tonal yet obliquely so, lusty yet astringent — provide the most gripping moments. I didn’t want Act II’s opening stretch, a transformation of “Michael, row the boat ashore”, to end.”
“With a large cast, onstage marching band, jazz trio and Chinese erhu player, it lent itself to student performance but also deserves, if ever practicable, a wider audience. How satisfying to have a full-scale opera written with the fluency of a composer who, at 76 and with several early theatre works to his name, understands the stage. Pastiche is skilful and immediate, only the showy top strata of a many layered and subtle score.”
“What emerged last weekend at the Royal Academy of Music is a gripping new opera about – for once – something important. Maxwell Davies’s score is mercurial, moving with a fluidity that matches the rapidly changing scenes. His vocal lines are lyrical, and the composer is at his most inventive in embracing styles from American jauntiness to Chinese marching-band music.”
The Britten Sinfonia gives the World premiere of Nocturne No. 1 for piano quartet at London's Wigmore Hall
On Wednesday 6 October, Maxwell Davies's Nocturne No.1 is premiered at the Wigmore Hall in a lunchtime concert by players from the Britten Sinfonia. Written as a birthday tribute to James MacMillan, whose chamber music also features in Wednesday's programme, the work is the first in a collection of two Nocturnes composed by Maxwell Davies for piano quartet. The second in the set is premiered in November by the Nash Ensemble, again at the Wigmore Hall.
June News - St Magnus Festival
The music of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies features strongly once again as part of the annual St Magnus Festival in June, founded by the composer over 30 years ago in the Orkney Islands. In addition to celebrating a Polish theme and the music of Chopin in his bicentennial year, works by Maxwell Davies within the programme include staged performances of Le Jongleur de Notre Dame by the Hebrides Ensemble, the second performance of the recently commissioned Overture: St Francis of Assisi by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Polish conductor Michal Dworzynski, and the world premiere of a new short work for chorus and string orchestra by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Martyn Brabbins.
World premiere of Blake Dreaming for baritone and string quartet at the Wigmore Hall
A new work by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies for baritone and string quartet is premiered at the Wigmore Hall at the end of April, by Roderick Williams and the Doric String Quartet. Commissioned by Nicholas and Judith Goodison, Blake Dreaming sets a phrase of poetry by William Blake, whilst also exploring the nature of the solo voice as an additional instrument within the textures of a string quartet.
The Orpheus Chamber Orchestra premieres a new work by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies
The world premiere of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies' Sea Orpheus is presented at Carnegie Hall in early February by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and soloist Christopher Taylor. Drawing inspiration from a poem by fellow 'Orcadian' George Mackay Brown and Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No.5, the work was commissioned as part of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra’s New Brandenburg series.
Kings Place celebrates the chamber music of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies
London's Kings Place presents a week of performances celebrating the chamber music of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies from 20 to 23 January 2010. Entitled 'Circus Maximus', the week represents a major retrospective of the astonishing scope of Maxwell Davies’ chamber output. Highlights from his vast catalogue, such as the iconic Eight Songs for a Mad King, will be performed by leading ensembles including the Maggini Quartet, Brodsky Quartet, Psappha and the Gemini Ensemble.
"I am very much looking forward to offering London audiences the opportunity to experience such a wide range of the chamber music I've composed over the years" commented Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. “To have such close musical friends coming to perform at Kings Place is wonderful - it is always such an honour to have one's music performed by ensembles who understand it intimately."
Sir Peter Maxwell Davies conducts the Netherlands Radio Kamer Filharmonie
Sir Peter Maxwell Davies conducts the Netherlands Radio Kamer Filharmonie in a concert of his own music, including the Dutch premiere of Last Door of Light, alongside Jimmack the Postie, An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise and his Strathclyde Concerto No. 4 with clarinet soloist Dimitri Ashkenazy.
75th birthday celebrations for Sir Peter Maxwell Davies continue in Glasgow
Following events at the BBC Proms, Southbank Centre and Wigmore Hall, the 75th birthday celebrations for Sir Peter Maxwell Davies continue in Glasgow with a fortnight of events devoted to his music. In addition to performances by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Hebrides Ensemble, Scottish Ensemble and students from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra give the world premiere of a new work by Maxwell Davies - Overture, St. Francis of Assisi – under Ilan Volkov, and also perform his seminal opera Taverner, conducted by Martyn Brabbins.
Later in November, Maxwell Davies conducts the Royal Flemish Philharmonic and soloist Daniel Hope in the Belgian premiere of his Violin Concerto No. 2 'Fiddler on the Shore', following successful premieres with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the BBC Proms.
World premiere of string sextet The Last Island with the Nash Ensemble at Wigmore Hall
The first complete presentation of Maxwell Davies’ Naxos String Quartet Cycle will be performed over one weekend at the Southbank Centre during October, as part of the Park Lane Group's anniversary series. Each of the ten quartets will be performed by a different ensemble from the Park Lane Group’s Young Artists scheme, as well as the Maggini Quartet who premiered and recorded the entire cycle for Naxos.
Also this month, Maxwell Davies returns to conduct Camerata Salzburg in a programme including his climate change inspired work Last Door of Light, which was premiered by the orchestra under his baton at the Carinthischer Sommer festival last year. His music is also celebrated by the Nash Ensemble in a special birthday tribute concert at the Wigmore Hall, featuring the world premiere of a new string sextet The Last Island, alongside Maxwell Davies' Seven in Nomine and Kettletoft Inn with Northumbrian pipes soloist Kathryn Tickell.
Maxwell Davies conducts the UK premiere of his Violin Concerto No. 2 at the BBC Proms
Sir Peter Maxwell Davies celebrates his 75th birthday at the BBC Proms in the Royal Albert Hall, conducting the UK premiere of his Violin Concerto No. 2 Fiddler on the Shore with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and soloist Daniel Hope. Mendelssohn’s Overture The Hebrides (Fingal’s Cave) and Sibelius’s Fifth Symphony complete the programme, the latter conducted by Garry Walker. To follow, the BBC Singers present a late night performance of his choral works Westerlings and Solstice of Light.
Sir Peter Maxwell Davies conducts the world premiere of his Violin Concerto No. 2 with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and soloist Daniel Hope in August. Subtitled Fiddler on the Shore, the inspiration for the concerto combines nature with the fiddle and folk music of the Orkney Islands, which lie off the North coast of Scotland, where Maxwell Davies lives and writes most of his music.
Music by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies features at the 2009 BBC Proms as part of the ‘1934: England at the Crossroads’ theme. Solstice of Light and Westerlings will be performed at a special late-night Prom (Prom 71, 8 September) while Maxwell Davies conducts the UK premiere of his new violin concerto with soloist Daniel Hope and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (Prom 70, 8 September). His music is also forms an integral part of the 2009 City of London Festival, within the festival theme of the latitude 60° North, exploring the historic and environmental issues of northern cities of Kirkwall, Oslo, Stockholm, Helsinki, Tallinn and St Petersburg, through the work of world-class performers and composers. Performances of Maxwell Davies’ music at the festival include the London premiere of The Sorcerer's Mirror (text by Andrew Motion), performed by the Choir of King's College, Cambridge, while many of his best known works also feature in the festival programme.
A new work by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies receives its world premiere performance this month in Cambridge. Based on a text by former Poet Laureate Andrew Motion, The Sorcerer’s Mirror was commissioned in celebration of the University of Cambridge's 800th anniversary and will be performed in King’s College Chapel under Stephen Cleobury. The City of London Festival will host the London premiere of the work later this month, along with numerous performances of other works by Maxwell Davies, including An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise, the London premiere of his String Trio and the world premiere of a new set of piano pieces Three Sanday Places.
This month Sir Peter Maxwell Davies conducts the Hamburg Philharmonic in three concerts featuring his own works An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise and A Reel of Seven Fisherman, alongside Mendelssohn's Symphony No.3 Scottish and Overture The Hebrides.
Sir Peter Maxwell Davies has presented the prestigious Queen's Medal for Music to Kathryn Tickell at The Sage Gateshead on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen, as part of his role as Master of the Queen's Music. Speaking of the announcement and Kathryn Tickell’s work, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies said, “I am delighted to have had the opportunity to present the Queen's Medal to Kathryn Tickell as she is not only the foremost Northumbrian Pipes player, a great composer and a wonderful all-round musician, but for her work in music education and in putting the pipes and the music of her own part of England back among the public where it belongs, and also spreading a love of this music throughout the whole world."
A new work by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies - A Birthday Card for Prince Charles - is premiered this month as part of his role as Master of the Queen's Music, in celebration of the sixtieth birthday of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. Written as a special birthday present for The Prince of Wales, the work will be performed by conductor Antonio Pappano and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House in the presence of The Prince of Wales as part of a private gala celebration at Buckingham Palace, with the first public performance to take place shortly afterwards at the Royal Festival Hall by the Philharmonia Orchestra and David Hill on 27 November 2008.
This month Sir Peter Maxwell Davies is featured in three events as part of the opening weekend of Kings Place Concert Hall in London. He gives a lecture entitled "Musica Speculum Mundi?", presents the music of two composers supported by the Society for Promotion of New Music, and introduces a performance of his clarinet quintet Hymn to Artemis Locheia by the Brodsky Quartet and Mark van der Wiel.