Peter Maxwell Davies

(b. 1934)

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(b Salford, 1934).

Eng. composer, conductor, and teacher. With Birtwistle, Goehr, and Ogdon, known as Manchester School. In 1957 won It. Govt. scholarship and studied in Rome with Petrassi. His Prolation won Olivetti Prize 1958 and was f.p. ISCM fest., Rome 1959. Mus. dir. Cirencester Grammar Sch. 1959–62. Resident composer Adelaide Univ. 1966. In 1967 was founder and co‐dir. of chamber ens., Pierrot Players, formed to perf. contemp. works; this was reorganized 1971 as The Fires of London (disbanded 1987), for which many of Maxwell Davies's works have been written. Since 1970 he has lived intermittently in Orkney, where the landscape and solitude have had an undoubted effect on his music, notably in the chamber opera The Martyrdom of St Magnus and the syms. He founded the St Magnus Fest. in 1977 and was art. dir. 1977–86. In 1986 received commission from Strathclyde local authority for 10 concs. for soloists from SCO. Mus. dir., Dartington Hall summer sch. 1979–84. Master of the Queen's Music from 2004.

Maxwell Davies soon became one of the most important of the Eng. so‐called avant‐garde. Like Britten, he has enjoyed writing for specific performers and his wide‐ranging imagination has devised striking sounds, freakish perhaps but always springing from a genuine mus. impulse. Rhythms are sometimes complex, vocal lines angular. He developed music theatre, staged pieces for a single performer, as in the remarkable Eight Songs for a Mad King. His music is marked also by a strong dramatic impulse which found full outlet in the operas Taverner and The Lighthouse. He has been inspired by the ability to combine and contrast the music of medieval times with his own idiom, and has also made much use of the 1920s fox‐trot rhythm for nostalgic purposes. CBE 1981. Knighted 1987. Prin. works:



(1962–70, rev. 1983);

The Martyrdom of St Magnus


The Two Fiddlers

(children's opera) (1978);

The Lighthouse






The Doctor of Myddfai


theatre pieces:

Notre Dame des Fleurs

, sop., mez., counterten., ens. (1966);

Vesalii Icones Images from Vesalius

(), dancer, vc., ens. (1969);

Eight Songs for a Mad King

, male v., ens. (1969);

Blind Man's Buff

, sop., mez., mime, stage band (1972);

Miss Donnithorne's Maggot

, mez., ens. (1974);

Le Jongleur de Notre Dame

, mime, bar., ens., children's band (1978);


(for children) (1980);

The Medium

, mez. (1981);

The Rainbow

(for children) (1981);

The No.11 Bus

, mez., ten., bar., 2 dancers, mime, ens. (1983–4);

The Great Bank Robbery

(for children) (1989);

Jupiter Landing

(for children) (1989);

Dinosaur At Large

(for children) (1989);

Dangerous Errand

(for children) (1990);

The Spiders' Revenge

(for very young children) (1991);

A Selkie Tale

(for children) (1992).




Caroline Mathilde




syms: No.1 (1973–6), No.2 (1980), No.3 (1984), No.4 (1989), No.5 (1993–4), No.6 (1995–6), No.7 (1998–9), No.8 () (2000–1);



5 Klee Pictures

(1959, rev. 1976);

Fantasia on an In Nomine of John Taverner: 1st 2nd

(1962), (1964);

St Thomas Wake


Worldes Blis


Subjects: Music.

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