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Maxwell Davies, Peter
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Davies, Sir Peter Maxwell

(Born; Manchester, 8 Sept 1934). English composer. He studied at the Royal Manchester College of Music (1952-6); his fellow students included Goehr and Birtwistle They studied the music of Boulez, Nono and Stockhausen which, together with early English music, provided him with the roots of a style (Trumpet Sonata, 1955). He then studied with Petrassi in Rome (1957-9) and extended his range to orchestral works (St Michael for 17 wind, 1957; Prolation, 1958). But a period of teaching at Cirencester Grammar School (1959-62) encouraged him to reconsider not only school music (drawing out children's creative potential) but also his own: he began to write in a more expressively focussed, dramatic way and to recover aspects of symphonic largeness, particularly as he found them in Mahler (second In Nomine Fantasia for orchestra, 1964). Much work was done at the universities of Princeton (1962-4) and Adelaide (1966).Back in England, Davies and Birtwistle formed the Pierrot Players in 1967 (re-formed as the Fires of London, 1970) and Davies began a sequence of music-theatre pieces for them (Eight Songs for a Mad King and Vesalii icones, both 1969). These exploited a fiercely expressionist style that came out of Pierrot lunaire and from work on his opera Taverner (1967), concerning the war between creed and creativity in the mind of the Tudor composer. Another symptom of disintegration was his use of foxtrots in works of desperate seriousness (St Thomas Wake for orchestra, 1969), though at the same time he was working, in the big orchestral movement Worldes Blis (1969), towards a more integrated style.Since 1970 he has pursued that style, with occasional expressionist throwbacks, while living remotely in Orkney, where in 1977 he founded the St Magnus Festival; there many of his works have been introduced, often reflecting on the landscapes, legend and literature of the islands (e.g. the opera The Martyrdom of St Magnus, 1977, children's operas, choral pieces). At the same time he has been writing large-scale symphonic works (three symphonies, 1976, 1980, 1983; Violin Concerto, 1985).

OperasTaverner (1972); The Martyrdom of St Magnus (1977); The Lighthouse (1980); Resurrection (1988)Children's operasThe Two Fiddlers (1978); Cinderella (1980); The Rainbow (1981)

BalletsNocturnal Dances (1970); Salome (1978); Caroline Mathilde (1990)Music-theatreRevelation and Fall (1968); L'homme armé (1968); Eight Songs for a Mad King (1969); Vesalii icones (1969); Blind Man's Buff (1972); Miss Donnithorne's Maggot (1974); Le jongleur de Notre Dame (1978); The Medium (1981); The no.11 Bus (1983); Dinosaur at Large (1989); A Selkie Tale (1992)

Choral musicFive Motets (1959); O magnum mysterium (1960); Veni Sancte Spiritus (1963); Westerlings (1976); Solstice of Light (1979)

Other vocal musicLeopardi Fragments (1961); From Stone to Thorn (1971); Hymn to St Magnus (1972); Stone Litany (1973); Dark Angels (1973); Fiddlers at the Wedding (1974); The Blind Fiddler (1976); Into the Labyrinth (1983)

Orchestral musicSt Michael (1957); Prolation (1958); Sinfonia (1962); 2 In Nomine fantasias (1962, 1964); Worldes Blis (1969); St Thomas Wake (1969); 4 symphonies (1976, 1980, 1983, 1989); A Mirror of Whitening Light (1977); Sinfonia concertante (1982); Sinfonietta accademica (1983); An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise (1985); Vn Conc. (1985) 7 Strathclyde Concs. (1987-92); Tpt Conc. (1988)

Chamber musicAlma Redemptoris mater (1957); Str Qt (1961); Shakespeare Music (1964); Antechrist (1967); Stedman Caters (1968); Eram quasi agnus (1969); Psalm cxxiv (1974); Ave maris stella (1975); Brass Qnt (1981); Image, Reflection, Shadow (1982); many arrs.

Instrumental musicHymnos, cl, pf (1967); Pf Sonata (1981); Org Sonata (1982); Gui Sonata (1984)

Incidental music, film music

(c)Groves Dictionaries, MacMillan Publishers Limited, UK

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