The Music Room > Composer Discussion

Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)

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Last night I heard an absolutely stunning performance by the New York New Music Ensemble of Eight Songs for a Mad King, so I thought this would be a good excuse to start a thread on Peter Maxwell Davies.  This concert reminded me that I don't really know much of his music, although the NYNME did his Vesalii Icones a few years ago.

The concert was an excellent, all-British program, but the Maxwell Davies just blew the roof off the second half.  The singer was soprano Haleh Abghari, a regular presence on the contemporary music scene here, and an intriguing choice since the part is written for a male voice.  But it didn't matter in the least.  If anything, the gender switch only enhanced the sense of unease and craziness. 

Just to give a flavor of the performance: at the start, she was escorted out and tied to a chair, straitjacket-style, with a gag.  As the lights went up, she lifted her head, gazing out into the audience and looking totally, chillingly and completely mad.  The vocal part gives her opportunities to sing, speak, whisper, chatter, rasp, whistle and pretty much anything else she is capable of doing.  This part really needs a singer who can be a bit unconventionally theatrical, to say the least, and it was one of the most virtuoso performances I've seen in a long time.

The musicians did a fantastic job (conducted by Jeffrey Milarsky), given that they are also required to dance and interact somewhat with the vocalist.  Maxwell Davies' score uses what sound like fragments of Renaissance dances here and there, mixed with freely atonal elements, but the focus remains squarely on the voice.

Peter Maxwell Davies' website



--- Quote from: bhodges on May 02, 2007, 06:24:31 AM ---
Peter Maxwell Davies' website

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Thanks for the link, Bruce. He has quite a nice site.

The man's an idiot, Master of the Queen's Musick and an idiot. Oh, I already said that.

Can't say it enough times though: the man & his music is/are an/a idiot. Avoid! >:D

Based on the comments from both Bruce and Hector, it seems I should investigate this composer as soon as possible.


--- Quote from: Todd on May 03, 2007, 05:05:08 AM ---Based on the comments from both Bruce and Hector, it seems I should investigate this composer as soon as possible.

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