Essays on the music of
Maxwell Davies

by Albrecht Moritz

Stockhausen pages
Wolfgang Rihm pages
Richard Barrett pages

Sir Peter Maxwell Davies is widely acknowledged as an important composer of our time. He has written ‘light’ music that enjoys some popularity (e.g. Orkney Wedding, With Sunrise), but like many I am more drawn to his output of symphonies, concertos, and string quartets, among others. These works can seem abstract, and upon first listening not particularly accessible, but eventually I have come to consider a good number of them to be among the most compelling music of the last 50 years. I have found that I return to them, and the composer's splendid vocal music, time and again. Maxwell Davies has an extraordinary grasp on large-scale structure; he uses his skills to create rather open narratives where the music often ends quite removed from the material it started with. The results are consistently captivating. In more recent years the Naxos Quartets have gained attention, a series of ten string quartets commissioned by the Naxos label and written between 2001 and 2007. Many of his other works have been recorded, in excellent performances and sound, on the Collins label, but unfortunately it went out of business. Thankfully the Naxos label has recently re-issued the Collins recordings of the symphonies. There is also some of the composer’s music available on other record labels.

© Albrecht Moritz 2011 – 2012

Symphony No. 1

Naxos Quartets 3 & 4

Naxos Quartets 7 & 8