In memory of Max, two years on

In memory of Max, two years on


norman lebrecht

March 14, 2018

Sir Peter Maxwell Davies died two years ago today.


  • Rob says:

    The greatest British composer since Elgar.

  • msc says:

    He was a wonderful composer, and admirably practical in his latter years (I think of his Naxos quartets or Strathclyde concertos for example). I bought most of his latter works as they came out on c.d.
    I would certainly say he was the greatest working since Britten more or less stopped. I couldn’t agree about Elgar: that would mean better than Vaughan Williams or Britten or….
    Anyway, thanks for bringing this to mind. I think I’ll go listen to something right now while I wait for the kids to come home.

  • amateur composer says:

    Such a loss to the music world….. Why didn’t the UK acknowledge his iconic standing when he died? There was no national thanksgiving or memorial service at all….. Disgraceful, considering his contribution as one of Britains foremost composers. Fortunately, his outstanding legacy will outlive those who decided he wasn’t worthy of a major public memorial service.
    Maybe his admirable characteristic outspokeness ruffled the establishment, even though he dutifully served his commitment as Master of the Queen’s Music?
    Very odd that despite this international standing, his life & output was never properly celebrated….

    • Robin Smith says:

      Use your favourite search engine and type in “maxwell davies memorial”. There’s detail there as to what was done.

      • amateur composer says:

        Thank you for suggesting this, but a self congratulatory promotional concert of some of Max’s pieces at St John’s Smith Square is hardly up there with a National Service at Westminster Abbey or St Paul’s Cathedral (or dare I even mention the defunct Musicians Church of St Botolph, Aldgate…) – venues in the past afforded to Master of The Queens Music, & other distinguished eminent musicians, & particularly British Composers who have subscribed to the history of British Music in the way Max did.

        Friends of his were dismayed at the lack of respect & national recognition shown towards him immediately after his death, which with anyone of similar standing wouldn’t have been allowed to have been sent off in such a damp, low key way.

  • David Ward says:

    Thank you for posting this old (1982?) BBC Scotland film.

    I lived for 12 years even further north on the island of Yell in Shetland. I miss Shetland and the ever present wind (lots of that) and sea, the sounds and sights of which had (and probably still have) an influence on my own work. (I now live in a farm cottage 8 miles from the the north facing Buchan coast.)

    Max was indeed a great man and a great composer.

    • Ellingtonia says:

      If he was such a great composer why does virtually no one programme his music? I can’t remember seeing anything by him in the repertoire of any British Orchestra. The only thing that seems to ever get played is the novelty bagpipe wedding piece at somewhere like the Proms!

      • Lorna Salzman says:

        The sorry fact is that the Brits don’t understand or like anything more complex than Hubert Parry. Britten got a worldwide reputation for his operas so Great Britain couldn’t ignore him. The underlying anti-intellectualism of the British is now matched by that of the USA.
        It wasn’t only Max (who I and my late composer/husband Eric) met and became friendly with in Rome in the mid 1950s) but Charles Darwin, whose home, Downe, Kent, wasn’t deemed worthy or attention much less restoration until the 1990s, after which it was gussied up with Attenborough tapes and the most interesting mementoes removed to some closet in Cambridge or London.
        And of course they added a tea room so the tourists wouldn’t be bored. The English remain profoundly uninterested in what they probably dismiss as “high art”. The Proms of course are another example of how to amuse the bourgeois without testing their patience or musical knowledge. Nothing in extremes, including the arts.

        • Robin Smith says:

          I can’t agree with your comments regarding the English and their composers. Britten’s orchestral pieces as well as his choral music are regularly performed here – the Spring Symphony, Sinfonia de Requiem, Violin Concerto, War Requiem……………..
          Living english composers have their operas (in parrticular) championed by ROH as well as our provincial Opera companys (WNO and Scottish Opera included) – Benjamin, Turnage, Dove, Birtwhistle. Britten’s operas are regularly performed as well as other 20th Century types – Vaughn Williams, Tippett etc.
          The BBC Symphony Orchestra regularly features new work from British composers, the Ballet companys regularly commission new scores from British composers (Macmillan, Talbot, Weir……….) and there are various smaller groups that champion such work – London Sinfonietta, BCMG etc.