Sir Peter Maxwell Davies


Sir Peter Maxwell-Davies

Sir Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016) was an English composer and conductor, who held the post of Master of the Queen's Music.

Life and music

  • Davies was born in Salford, Lancashire. He took piano lessons and composed from an early age.
  • After education at Leigh Boys Grammar School, Davies studied at the University of Manchester and at the Royal Manchester College of Music (amalgamated into the Royal Northern College of Music in 1973), where his fellow students included Harrison Birtwistle, Alexander Goehr, Elgar Howarth and John Ogdon. Together they formed New Music Manchester, a group committed to contemporary music.
  • In 1962, he secured a Harkness Fellowship at Princeton University, with the help of Aaron Copland and Benjamin Britten. He then moved to Australia, where he was Composer in Residence at the Elder Conservatorium of Music, University of Adelaide from 1965-66.
  • He then returned to the United Kingdom and moved to the Orkney Islands, initially to Hoy in 1971, and later to Sanday.
  • From 1992 to 2002 he was associate conductor/composer with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and he has conducted a number of other prominent orchestras, including the Philharmonia, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra.
  • Davies was made a CBE in 1981 and knighted in 1987. He was appointed Master of the Queen's Music for a ten-year period from March 2004.
  • Davies had a keen interest in environmentalism. He wrote The Yellowcake Revue, a collection of cabaret-style pieces that he performed with actress Eleanor Bron, in protest at plans to mine uranium ore in Orkney. It is from this suite of pieces that his famous instrumental chanson triste interlude Farewell to Stromness is taken. 



Album reviews

Top Maxwell-Davies Pieces