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Peter Maxwell Davies

September 8, 1934 -
born in Manchester, England, composed during the Contemporary period
Known to his friends simply as Max, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies is one of the most prolific and frequently performed of British composers. His several hundred compositions draw from an eclectic array of influences, from Indian music to serialism to Renaissance polyphony. Davies has also worked tirelessly in the area of music education and as an environmental activist.

The precocious Davies made his musical debut in a BBC broadcast at age eight. His education continued at Leigh Grammar School and from 1952 at Manchester University, where he received an M.A. in 1957. He also attended the Royal Manchester College of Music from 1952 to 1956, where he and fellow musicians Sir Harrison Birtwistle, John Ogdon, Alexander Goehr, and Elgar Howarth formed New Music Manchester -- a group devoted to the performance of twentieth century works. The Italian government provided Davies with a scholarship in 1957, allowing him to study in Italy for a year with Goffredo Petrassi.

From 1959 to 1962, Davies was director of music at the Cirencester Grammar School, where he developed a teaching method based on musical performance. Since then he has written often for children, and continues to devote significant time to education. He spent the next two years in the United States, studying at Princeton University's graduate school with Roger Sessions and Earl Kim on a Harkness Fellowship. He wrote The Shepherd's Calendar (1965) for young singers and instrumentalists for the 1965 UNESCO Conference on Music in Education in Sydney, Australia, and was a visiting composer at Adelaide University in 1966.

Back in England in 1967, Davies formed the Pierrot Players with Birtwistle. The Players specialized in performances of contemporary music, and Davies wrote many works for them, including his infamous Eight Songs for a Mad King (1969). He took over sole directorship of the Players in 1970, reforming them as the Fires of London (which he continued to lead and compose for until he disbanded the group in 1987). During the 1960s, Davies became interested in John Taverner, the sixteenth century English composer. In 1962, he wrote the award-winning First Fantasia on an In Nomine of John Taverner, and started work on his first opera, Taverner, which was premiered in 1972.

In 1970, Davies relocated to the Orkney Islands; Orcadian subject matter, in particular, the writings of George Mackey Brown and the Orcadian St. Magnus became a significant part of his music. Brown's writings have inspired works like Black Pentecost (1979) and the massive Orkney Saga project (the first two of its proposed fourteen parts appeared in 1997). In 1977, Davies organized the St. Magnus Festival, which he directed until 1986. The Yellow Cake Revue for singers and piano (1980) features a text by Davies criticizing proposed uranium mining in the Orkneys and is just one of his compositions reflecting his environmental concerns.

Davies received his knighthood in 1987. Two years earlier, he became the Associate Composer-Conductor of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, an association which led to the Strathclyde Concerto Project, a set of ten concertos for various instruments written over the years 1987 to 1996. His interest in children's music continued with the frequently performed The Turn of the Tide (1992), in which Davies' music is combined with compositions by school children. Among his numerous commissioned works are An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise (1984), written for the centennial of the Boston Pops; The Doctor of Myddfai (1995), his second full-scale opera, written for the fiftieth anniversary of the Welsh National Opera; and the Symphony No. 8, "Antarctic" (2000), commissioned by the Philharmonia Orchestra. ~ Chris Morrison, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Martin Baker, Westminister Cathedral Choir

Title: Missa Parvula, For Unison Treble Chrous & Organ

1. Missa Parvula, For Unison Treble Chrous & Organ: I. Kyrie

2. Missa Parvula, For Unison Treble Chrous & Organ: II. Gloria

3. Missa Parvula, For Unison Treble Chrous & Organ: III. Credo

4. Missa Parvula, For Unison Treble Chrous & Organ: IV. Sanctus - Benedictus

5. Missa Parvula, For Unison Treble Chrous & Organ: V. Agnus Dei

Title: Mass, For SATB Chorus & Organ With Optional 2nd Organ, J. 333

6. Mass, For SATB Chorus & Organ With Optional 2nd Organ, J. 333: I. Kyrie

7. Mass, For SATB Chorus & Organ With Optional 2nd Organ, J. 333: II. Gloria

8. Mass, For SATB Chorus & Organ With Optional 2nd Organ, J. 333: III. Credo

9. Mass, For SATB Chorus & Organ With Optional 2nd Organ, J. 333: IV. Sanctus - Benedictus

10. Mass, For SATB Chorus & Organ With Optional 2nd Organ, J. 333: V. Agnus Dei

Title: Veni Creator Spiritus, For Organ, J. 332

11. Veni Creator Spiritus, For Organ, J. 332: Veni Creator Spiritus

Title: Dum Complerentur, For Chorus & Optional Organ

12. Dum Complerentur, For Chorus & Optional Organ: Dum Complerentur

Title: Reliqui Domum Meum, For Organ Solo, J. 281

13. Reliqui Domum Meum, For Organ Solo, J. 281: Reliqui Domum Meum

Title: Veni Sancte Spiritus, For Chorus & Optional Organ

14. Veni Sancte Spiritus, For Chorus & Optional Organ: Veni Sancte Spiritus

x

Track List: Naxos Quartets Nos.1 And 2 Maggini Quartet Naxos 8.557396

Title: Naxos Quartet No. 1 For String Quartet, J. 407

1. Naxos Quartet No. 1 For String Quartet, J. 407: I. Allegro

2. Naxos Quartet No. 1 For String Quartet, J. 407: II. Largo

3. Naxos Quartet No. 1 For String Quartet, J. 407: III. Allegro Molto

Title: Naxos Quartet No. 2 For String Quartet, J. 413

4. Naxos Quartet No. 2 For String Quartet, J. 413: I. Allegro

5. Naxos Quartet No. 2 For String Quartet, J. 413: II. Lento Flessibile

6. Naxos Quartet No. 2 For String Quartet, J. 413: III. Allegro

7. Naxos Quartet No. 2 For String Quartet, J. 413: IV. Lento Flessibile

x

Track List: Peter Maxwell Davies: Chamber Works, 1952-1987

Title: Quartet Movement, For String Quartet, J. 12

1. Quartet Movement, For String Quartet, J. 12: Quartet Movement, For String Quartet, J. 12

Title: Pieces (5) For Piano, J. 19

2. Pieces (5) For Piano, J. 19: I. Andante

3. Pieces (5) For Piano, J. 19: II. Allegro

4. Pieces (5) For Piano, J. 19: III. Andante

5. Pieces (5) For Piano, J. 19: IV. Adagio - No Troppo

6. Pieces (5) For Piano, J. 19: V. Allegretto

Title: Clarinet Sonata, For Clarinet & Piano, J. 21

7. Clarinet Sonata, For Clarinet & Piano, J. 21: I. Moderato

8. Clarinet Sonata, For Clarinet & Piano, J. 21: II. Allegro - Presto - Prestissimo

9. Clarinet Sonata, For Clarinet & Piano, J. 21: III. Adagio - Lento Molto

Title: String Quartet, In One Movement, J. 44

10. String Quartet, In One Movement, J. 44: String Quartet, In One Movement, J. 44

Title: Hymnos, For Clarinet & Piano, J. 73

11. Hymnos, For Clarinet & Piano, J. 73: 1

12. Hymnos, For Clarinet & Piano, J. 73: 2

13. Hymnos, For Clarinet & Piano, J. 73: 3

14. Hymnos, For Clarinet & Piano, J. 73: 4

15. Hymnos, For Clarinet & Piano, J. 73: 5

16. Hymnos, For Clarinet & Piano, J. 73: 6

17. Hymnos, For Clarinet & Piano, J. 73: 7

18. Hymnos, For Clarinet & Piano, J. 73: 8

19. Hymnos, For Clarinet & Piano, J. 73: 9

Title: The Seven Brightnesses, For Clarinet, J. 134

20. The Seven Brightnesses, For Clarinet, J. 134: I. Presto - Allegro Ritmico

21. The Seven Brightnesses, For Clarinet, J. 134: II. Adagio - Lento - Adagio

22. The Seven Brightnesses, For Clarinet, J. 134: III. Adagio Espressivo

23. The Seven Brightnesses, For Clarinet, J. 134: IV. Moderato

24. The Seven Brightnesses, For Clarinet, J. 134: V. Allegro

Title: Little Quartet No.1, For String Quartet, J. 169

25. Little Quartet No.1, For String Quartet, J. 169: I. Andante

Title: Little Quartet No.2, For String Quartet, J. 177

26. Little Quartet No.2, For String Quartet, J. 177: II. Allegro

Title: Little Quartet No.1, For String Quartet, J. 169

27. Little Quartet No.1, For String Quartet, J. 169: III. Lento

Title: Little Quartet No.2, For String Quartet, J. 177

28. Little Quartet No.2, For String Quartet, J. 177: IV

x

Track List: Peter Maxwell Davies: Naxos Quartets Nos. 7 And 8

Title: Naxos Quartet No. 7 For String Quartet, J. 447

1. Naxos Quartet No. 7 For String Quartet, J. 447: I. Adagio Molto (S. Carlo Alle Quattro Fontane I)

2. Naxos Quartet No. 7 For String Quartet, J. 447: II. Adagio (S. Giovane Dei Fiorentini, Chiesa Inferiore)

3. Naxos Quartet No. 7 For String Quartet, J. 447: III. Lento Molto (S. Giovanni In Laterano)

4. Naxos Quartet No. 7 For String Quartet, J. 447: IV. Adagio - Oratorio Dei Filippini (L'alzato Della Balustrata Della Loggia D'ingresso E Trabeazione)

5. Naxos Quartet No. 7 For String Quartet, J. 447: V. Lento (S. Ivo Alla Sapienza)

6. Naxos Quartet No. 7 For String Quartet, J. 447: VI. Adagio (Scorsa Secolare - Palazzo Falconieri)

7. Naxos Quartet No. 7 For String Quartet, J. 447: VII. Adagio (Postludio - S. Carlo Alle Quattro Fontane II)

Title: Naxos Quartet No. 8 For String Quartet, J. 452

8. Naxos Quartet No. 8 For String Quartet, J. 452: Naxos Quartet No. 8 (Dedicated To Her Majesty The Queen On Her 80th Birthday)

x

Track List: The Beltane Fire, The Turn Of The Tide

Title: The Beltane Fire, choreographic poem for orchestra, J. 275

1. The Beltane Fire, choreographic poem for orchestra, J. 275: Scene 1: In the Barn of the Bu

2. The Beltane Fire, choreographic poem for orchestra, J. 275: Interlude 1

3. The Beltane Fire, choreographic poem for orchestra, J. 275: Scene 2: A Field

4. The Beltane Fire, choreographic poem for orchestra, J. 275: Interlude 2

5. The Beltane Fire, choreographic poem for orchestra, J. 275: Scene 3: The Kirk

6. The Beltane Fire, choreographic poem for orchestra, J. 275: Scene 4: The Field

7. The Beltane Fire, choreographic poem for orchestra, J. 275: Scene 5: The Beltane Fire

Title: The Turn of the Tide, for orchestra, children's chorus & young instrumentalists/composers, J. 253

8. The Turn of the Tide, for orchestra, children's chorus & young instrumentalists/composers, J. 253: Section 1: First Life. 1. The creation of underwater plants -

9. The Turn of the Tide, for orchestra, children's chorus & young instrumentalists/composers, J. 253: Section 1: First Life. 2. The creation of plants on land -

10. The Turn of the Tide, for orchestra, children's chorus & young instrumentalists/composers, J. 253: Section 1: First Life. 3. The creation of the first sea creatures -

11. The Turn of the Tide, for orchestra, children's chorus & young instrumentalists/composers, J. 253: Section 1: First Life. 4. The creation of birds -

12. The Turn of the Tide, for orchestra, children's chorus & young instrumentalists/composers, J. 253: Section 1: First Life. 5. Mammals, and first people

13. The Turn of the Tide, for orchestra, children's chorus & young instrumentalists/composers, J. 253: Section 2: Creation Established - Life Flourishes. 1. The underwater plants flourish -

14. The Turn of the Tide, for orchestra, children's chorus & young instrumentalists/composers, J. 253: Section 2: Creation Established - Life Flourishes. 2. The trees flourish -

15. The Turn of the Tide, for orchestra, children's chorus & young instrumentalists/composers, J. 253: Section 2: Creation Established - Life Flourishes. 3. The prosperity of fish -

16. The Turn of the Tide, for orchestra, children's chorus & young instrumentalists/composers, J. 253: Section 2: Creation Established - Life Flourishes. 4. Bird migration -

17. The Turn of the Tide, for orchestra, children's chorus & young instrumentalists/composers, J. 253: Section 2: Creation Established - Life Flourishes. 5. Instinct and intellect in mammals and mankind

18. The Turn of the Tide, for orchestra, children's chorus & young instrumentalists/composers, J. 253: Section 5: The Worst that Could Happen - The Corruption and Dissolution of All Nature Completed. 1. The sea plants are poisoned -

19. The Turn of the Tide, for orchestra, children's chorus & young instrumentalists/composers, J. 253: Section 5: The Worst that Could Happen - The Corruption and Dissolution of All Nature Completed. 2. The trees are suffocated -

20. The Turn of the Tide, for orchestra, children's chorus & young instrumentalists/composers, J. 253: Section 5: The Worst that Could Happen - The Corruption and Dissolution of All Nature Completed. 3. The fish are deformed and cannot function -

21. The Turn of the Tide, for orchestra, children's chorus & young instrumentalists/composers, J. 253: Section 5: The Worst that Could Happen - The Corruption and Dissolution of All Nature Completed. 4. The birds fall from the sky -

22. The Turn of the Tide, for orchestra, children's chorus & young instrumentalists/composers, J. 253: Section 5: The Worst that Could Happen - The Corruption and Dissolution of All Nature Completed. 5. Hubris triumphant -

23. The Turn of the Tide, for orchestra, children's chorus & young instrumentalists/composers, J. 253: Section 6: The Warning is Heeded - Nature Reborn - The Decline is Reversed

Title: Sunday Morning, signature tune for BBC Radio Programme, J. 268

24. Sunday Morning, signature tune for BBC Radio Programme, J. 268: Sunday Morning

Title: Threnody on a Plainsong for Michael Vyner, for orchestra, J. 229

25. Threnody on a Plainsong for Michael Vyner, for orchestra, J. 229: Threnody on a Plainsong for Michael Vyner

Title: Sir Charles his Pavan, for orchestra, J. 255

26. Sir Charles his Pavan, for orchestra, J. 255: Sir Charles his Pavan

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