Peter Maxwell Davies (1934 – 2016)

Earlier today the death was announced of composer Peter Maxwell Davies. Here’s a round-up of what some people have said about the composer today.

Overgrown Path is one of a handful of writers who succeeds in paying suitable tribute whilst avoiding sentimentality.

Yes, let’s pay our respects, but we must avoid the untimely death of a great musician becoming nothing more than today’s big thing, to be replaced by whatever new big thing breaks tomorrow. We need to remember Peter Maxwell Davies and the others that we have lost recently. But we need to remember them in perpetuity

Jessica Duchen was touching in her description of ‘Max’.

He was a powerful, trenchant, inspiring, gritty, determined, high-spirited, outspoken, eloquent, humorous, startling, original, fabulous, push-the-boat-out composer of our times.

Classic FM have a good overview of the composer’s life and output. The Daily Mail has some great archive pictures charting the life of the composer.

Writing for the Telegraph, Ivan Hewitt said:

It’s easy to say that he simply turned from radical youngster to conservative, but the steely blue eyes and determined jaw of the old man showed that something remained unappeased inside Maxwell Davies. There was an anger in him, which spilled over briefly in the satirical fury of those works of the 1960s and early 1970s.

Imogen Tilden’s write-up for the Guardian includes a quote from Radio 3’s Controller Alan Davey who said:

We have lost a musical giant, a major composer with a strong and unique voice through all parts of his extraordinary career, from his early avant garde musical theatre works to his symphonies and his work for children and young people. It is a sad loss to the world of music and we will remember him through his recordings and the glorious spirit that shines through his music.

Gramophone Magazine included an archive anecdote of a performance of Max’s first performed work:

His first appearance in our pages, incidentally, was back in January 1963. In a report from Manchester, about the young group of musicians with links to the city, Arthur Jacobs wrote: ‘Together, Ogdon and Howarth performed a sonata by Peter Maxwell Davies, against whose name I scribbled in my programme the enthusiastic words: “A real composer!”‘

And on Slipped Disc, Norman Lebrecht wrote of Peter Maxwell Davies

Max settled into an establishment role, accepting multiple commissions for symphonies and concertos – ten of each – and speaking up for music education and endangered orchestras. He was a prodigiously articulate man and a very congenial colleague.

David Warbuton (Conservative) MP appeared on Channel 4 News with composer Judith Weir, both sharing their experiences of the composer; BBC Radio 4’s Front Row also paid tribute.

My memory of him – or rather, his work – was coloured by A-Level music studies during which I was introduced to his work 8 Songs for a Mad King. My teacher extolled the work’s virtues; I was terrified by it. As I became more familiar with his music, the avant garde and the industry, so I came to understand and appreciate his contribution to the genre.

Peter Maxwell Davies was a remarkable composer who’s spirit, drive and passion could be heard in the range of his compositions. It was also there whenever he appeared on the platform with a baton, or when he was invited to speak. The fact that so many luminaries refer to him simply as ‘Max’ shows the affection and respect all had for him. If the classical music world needs advocates, then we find ourselves depleted tonight. Just as Overgrown Path advocates, let’s see the great man remembered in the years to come.

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