Peter Maxwell Davies (1934–2016)
Distinguished composer and conductor
March 14, 2016
Peter Maxwell Davies
Photo: John Batten
All at Naxos were saddened to learn of the death of Peter Maxwell Davies, who passed away at his home on Orkney on 14 March at the age of 81. Universally acknowledged as one of the foremost composers of recent times, he made a significant contribution to musical history through his wide-ranging and prolific output, which spanned more than five decades. His catalogue of works is eclectic, including profoundly argued symphonic works, dramatic stage works, inventive music-theatre, and witty light orchestral pieces. The wide range of styles and genres that he explored is well represented in his Naxos discography. Maxwell Davies was also no stranger to the conductor’s rostrum: he served as composer/conductor with both the Royal Philharmonic and BBC Philharmonic Orchestras, and guest-conducted leading orchestras around the world. Maxwell Davies was knighted in 1987 and held the appointment of Master of the Queen’s Music from 2004–2014, in which role he sought to raise the profile of music in Great Britain, as well as writing many works for Her Majesty the Queen and for royal occasions.
The Naxos Quartets and the Maggini Quartet
Naxos takes pride in the fact that Maxwell Davies’ substantial output of chamber and instrumental music features the landmark cycle of ten string quartets, the Naxos Quartets (8.505225), which were described by the Financial Times as “one of the most impressive musical statements of our time”. They were written over a period of five years and recorded by the Maggini Quartet: Laurence Jackson, David Angel (violins), Martin Outram (viola), Michal Kaznowski (cello); Lorraine McAslan led the ensemble during the recording of the Tenth Quartet.
The composer described the set of quartets as “a novel in ten chapters” and the development of the project’s narrative was wonderfully captured in a film, made in 2008, in which Maxwell Davies and members of the Maggini Quartet document their collaboration from the first to, literally, the last note. The interviews were conducted by Nicolas Soames, and the film was edited and produced by Oliver Clements (K&A Productions Ltd).
Watch the video featuring the composer, performers and Klaus Heymann, who commissioned the Naxos Quartets:
Peter Maxwell Davies Biography & Discography
The Maggini Quartet Background and Discography