Author Topic: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)  (Read 16205 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline schnittkease

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 348
  • Location: Portland, OR
Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
« Reply #60 on: June 04, 2019, 01:31:22 PM »
I lament that Sir Peter Maxwell Davies isn't better represented on forums like this.  His fantastic website is dead (I just checked) and it was probably the gold standard of what a contemporary composers website should be like full of articles, recordings, program notes, news, etc.  Today, I get a "The connection has timed out" message when checking it.   :(  I will agree his output was inconsistent but he certainly deserves better than obscurity.

I should revisit the Strathclyde Concertos -- I got much pleasure out of acquainting myself with the Naxos Quartets a few months ago. As far as Maxwell Davies' obscurity is concerned, I find that most people get turned off by Eight Songs for a Mad King and are not compelled to explore more of his (vast and progressively less modernist) output. It's a shame, and probably a similar story with Nørgård.

Online foxandpeng

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 537
  • Location: Cheshire, UK
  • Currently Listening to:
    Mostly post-1900. Brits. Northern Europeans. Others.
Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
« Reply #61 on: October 15, 2021, 03:29:20 PM »
I won't pretend to know PMD's music well, but I'm really pleased to be revisiting what I do know, and acquainting myself with more.

PMD nay have dedicated this as a "a birthday gift for the Virgin"; but I'm enjoying it as an expression of nature that necessitates no divinity to acknowledge. The Primal chaos of the shifting Scottish seascapes with their unpredictable storms, calms and swirling waves, is enough. As a non-musician, I'm not able to comment on PMD's skill as a composer, but there is so much going on here! This is neither a short listen, nor one to undertake while doing other things  :)

Peter Maxwell Davies
Symphony #2
St Thomas Wake
PMD
BBC Philharmonic
Naxos


After the grand and powerful #1, described by PMD as "permeated by the presence of the sea and the landscape of this isolated place off the north coast of Scotland", turbulent, and rammed with multi-layered percussion, this symphony is equally worth hearing, in my mind.

Again the sea! Apparently, PMD says it speaks of 'the tensions set up by the confluence of the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea “at the foot of the cliff before my window”.'

Whatever the inspiration or intention, I'm enjoying wrestling with music that is quite difficult at times, and needs lots of concentration.
« Last Edit: October 15, 2021, 03:32:14 PM by foxandpeng »
“A quiet secluded life in the country, with the possibility of being useful to people ... then work which one hopes may be of some use; then rest, nature, books, music, love for one's neighbour — such is my idea of happiness"

Tolstoy

Online foxandpeng

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 537
  • Location: Cheshire, UK
  • Currently Listening to:
    Mostly post-1900. Brits. Northern Europeans. Others.
Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
« Reply #62 on: October 30, 2021, 01:01:46 PM »
Symphony #3
PMD
BBC Philharmonic
Naxos


Continuing to listen through PMD's work is something of a journey, I think. I don't find his writing easy, but there is something oddly compelling about the difficulty and the seemingly linear nature of what I'm hearing. I'm more used to clear structure in most of my listening rotation and exploration, so Maxwell's lack of statement/development/recapitulation can leave me pretty tired if I concentrate too hard.

For me, this is probably the most taxing of his symphonies so far. The opening movement starts slowly but gathers pace, with two central movements which maintain that, and then a conclusion that slows right down again. It isn't short at 57:28, and I still don't know the best way to approach it - close listening, or letting the music wash over me somewhat, with repeated plays fixing the key moments and sections in place over time. I want to get there with it, as there is so much energy and so much going on! I like it, even when I don't. I don't have access to liner notes, but reviews paint it as yet another sea scape, with rolling depths and unpredictable swells and turbulence. They're not wrong. My boat doesn't know if it is up, down, or ready to capsize!

I think I could learn to love this, but through hard won battles and not easy paddles.

PS... my wife hates it. I mean, REALLY hates it.
« Last Edit: October 30, 2021, 01:14:34 PM by foxandpeng »
“A quiet secluded life in the country, with the possibility of being useful to people ... then work which one hopes may be of some use; then rest, nature, books, music, love for one's neighbour — such is my idea of happiness"

Tolstoy

Offline relm1

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 1583
  • Location: California
Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
« Reply #63 on: October 30, 2021, 04:31:33 PM »
Symphony #3
PMD
BBC Philharmonic
Naxos


Continuing to listen through PMD's work is something of a journey, I think. I don't find his writing easy, but there is something oddly compelling about the difficulty and the seemingly linear nature of what I'm hearing. I'm more used to clear structure in most of my listening rotation and exploration, so Maxwell's lack of statement/development/recapitulation can leave me pretty tired if I concentrate too hard.

For me, this is probably the most taxing of his symphonies so far. The opening movement starts slowly but gathers pace, with two central movements which maintain that, and then a conclusion that slows right down again. It isn't short at 57:28, and I still don't know the best way to approach it - close listening, or letting the music wash over me somewhat, with repeated plays fixing the key moments and sections in place over time. I want to get there with it, as there is so much energy and so much going on! I like it, even when I don't. I don't have access to liner notes, but reviews paint it as yet another sea scape, with rolling depths and unpredictable swells and turbulence. They're not wrong. My boat doesn't know if it is up, down, or ready to capsize!

I think I could learn to love this, but through hard won battles and not easy paddles.

PS... my wife hates it. I mean, REALLY hates it.

No, he's not an easy listen.  His music is challenging but he has a wide range - you can find very dramatic music in his body of works but also playful works, some are very formal structurally, others toss out formal approaches.  If you like Henze, you should find much to enjoy in PMD.  The big regret I have is that his now defunct website featured tons of performance recordings that weren't commercially available.  I have a personal story to tell of him.  In the mid 1990's, I was a student and heard my local orchestra (San Francisco Symphony) would be performing the world premiere of a work of his with him conducting.  I emailed him and to my surprise, he generously responded and invited me to the rehearsal and asked to meet me after and see my scores.  He might have been the first high profile composer who took interest in me.  I told him nothing about my music, just that I aspired to compose.  He was so gracious.  He added my name to the security list so when I went to Davies Symphony Hall, security stopped me until I told them I was invited, then they found my name (provided by him) and allowed me in to a completely empty concert hall.  They were already rehearsing a work, I believe it was a Haydn Symphony based on memory.  Then switched to PMD's work.  It was complex but this was the first professional orchestral rehearsal I had ever attended.  The music was dense and nothing like I expected based on its evocative title.  There were moments of stillness which I greatly admired.  Immediately after the dense music ended, he turned around and looked for me and waved for me to approach.  I was so nervous.  I had never met someone who had been knighted before.  I understood I should call him Sir Peter and he immediately corrected me with his eye's closed, saying "Please, call me Max".  He was very sweety and invited me back stage to his guest room which was practically a hotel room in the back of the concert hall with a living room, bed, and bathroom.  He cleaned up and sat down with me so interested in hearing about me.  I was embarrassed to tell him, I'm just a student who had nothing played and only dreamed of writing music.  He silently read my music.  He had a very soft voice and asked me, "how badly do why want to write music?"  I had no idea.  I told him I'm obsessed with it and understand that I'm just a student.  He pointed out that my music was too ambitious for my skill but that wasn't bad.  He paused, then put the music down and looked me in the eyes and said "You know, being a composer is a very difficult path.  Are you sure this is what you want?  If there are other things you can do to make a living, choose that instead."  He wasn't at all being dismissive.  His advise lit a fire under me.  In my youth, I really understood him and nothing he could say would dissuade me.  He was a very generous and kind man who tremendously supported new music.  I cherish the time I had with him and regret no photos of this event, but it predated digital cameras.  In a way, he kicked me in to high gear and was a mentor to me.

Offline amw

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 4867
Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
« Reply #64 on: October 30, 2021, 09:39:37 PM »
One thing I do remember is that Max was present at a student composition seminar. One student was presenting his work and a couple of our regular lecturers made comments along the lines of, this sounds like a Vaughan Williams knockoff, are you concerned about developing your own style, etc. Max asked the student: were you really trying to imitate Vaughan Williams (or whoever it was) or is this how you genuinely prefer to write? And the student replied: this is the music I feel the most connection with, this is my style, I'm not intending to imitate or compete with any other composer. Max said: it's clear you have a great affinity for this style, everything is done very well, and there's no reason you shouldn't continue to compose in this manner for as long as that's what moves you. The regular lecturers did not bring up such stylistic objections to student composers' work for at least two or three seminars after the one Max had guest-hosted.

Online foxandpeng

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 537
  • Location: Cheshire, UK
  • Currently Listening to:
    Mostly post-1900. Brits. Northern Europeans. Others.
Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
« Reply #65 on: October 31, 2021, 11:16:16 AM »
No, he's not an easy listen.  His music is challenging but he has a wide range - you can find very dramatic music in his body of works but also playful works, some are very formal structurally, others toss out formal approaches.  If you like Henze, you should find much to enjoy in PMD.  The big regret I have is that his now defunct website featured tons of performance recordings that weren't commercially available.  I have a personal story to tell of him.  In the mid 1990's, I was a student and heard my local orchestra (San Francisco Symphony) would be performing the world premiere of a work of his with him conducting.  I emailed him and to my surprise, he generously responded and invited me to the rehearsal and asked to meet me after and see my scores.  He might have been the first high profile composer who took interest in me.  I told him nothing about my music, just that I aspired to compose.  He was so gracious.  He added my name to the security list so when I went to Davies Symphony Hall, security stopped me until I told them I was invited, then they found my name (provided by him) and allowed me in to a completely empty concert hall.  They were already rehearsing a work, I believe it was a Haydn Symphony based on memory.  Then switched to PMD's work.  It was complex but this was the first professional orchestral rehearsal I had ever attended.  The music was dense and nothing like I expected based on its evocative title.  There were moments of stillness which I greatly admired.  Immediately after the dense music ended, he turned around and looked for me and waved for me to approach.  I was so nervous.  I had never met someone who had been knighted before.  I understood I should call him Sir Peter and he immediately corrected me with his eye's closed, saying "Please, call me Max".  He was very sweety and invited me back stage to his guest room which was practically a hotel room in the back of the concert hall with a living room, bed, and bathroom.  He cleaned up and sat down with me so interested in hearing about me.  I was embarrassed to tell him, I'm just a student who had nothing played and only dreamed of writing music.  He silently read my music.  He had a very soft voice and asked me, "how badly do why want to write music?"  I had no idea.  I told him I'm obsessed with it and understand that I'm just a student.  He pointed out that my music was too ambitious for my skill but that wasn't bad.  He paused, then put the music down and looked me in the eyes and said "You know, being a composer is a very difficult path.  Are you sure this is what you want?  If there are other things you can do to make a living, choose that instead."  He wasn't at all being dismissive.  His advise lit a fire under me.  In my youth, I really understood him and nothing he could say would dissuade me.  He was a very generous and kind man who tremendously supported new music.  I cherish the time I had with him and regret no photos of this event, but it predated digital cameras.  In a way, he kicked me in to high gear and was a mentor to me.

One thing I do remember is that Max was present at a student composition seminar. One student was presenting his work and a couple of our regular lecturers made comments along the lines of, this sounds like a Vaughan Williams knockoff, are you concerned about developing your own style, etc. Max asked the student: were you really trying to imitate Vaughan Williams (or whoever it was) or is this how you genuinely prefer to write? And the student replied: this is the music I feel the most connection with, this is my style, I'm not intending to imitate or compete with any other composer. Max said: it's clear you have a great affinity for this style, everything is done very well, and there's no reason you shouldn't continue to compose in this manner for as long as that's what moves you. The regular lecturers did not bring up such stylistic objections to student composers' work for at least two or three seminars after the one Max had guest-hosted.

These are both lovely anecdotes that give some insight into the man.

Difficult, interesting, dissonant music that will keep me busy for a while, I think.
“A quiet secluded life in the country, with the possibility of being useful to people ... then work which one hopes may be of some use; then rest, nature, books, music, love for one's neighbour — such is my idea of happiness"

Tolstoy

Offline Mandryka

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 17561
Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
« Reply #66 on: October 31, 2021, 12:16:22 PM »

Difficult, interesting, dissonant music that will keep me busy for a while, I think.

For me the difficulty isn't to do with dissonance, it is to do with structure -- I know the music is very highly structured but I don't hear it. The music seems to ramble. I've tried again with a couple of quartets, 7 and 2, prompted by you in fact, but no, I just didn't manage to get into the right frame of mind. I'll try again one day soon.
Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen

Offline relm1

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 1583
  • Location: California
Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
« Reply #67 on: October 31, 2021, 05:34:25 PM »
For me the difficulty isn't to do with dissonance, it is to do with structure -- I know the music is very highly structured but I don't hear it. The music seems to ramble. I've tried again with a couple of quartets, 7 and 2, prompted by you in fact, but no, I just didn't manage to get into the right frame of mind. I'll try again one day soon.

What are your thoughts on this work?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCeh6amXyYE

Online foxandpeng

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 537
  • Location: Cheshire, UK
  • Currently Listening to:
    Mostly post-1900. Brits. Northern Europeans. Others.
Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
« Reply #68 on: November 01, 2021, 06:35:57 AM »
For me the difficulty isn't to do with dissonance, it is to do with structure -- I know the music is very highly structured but I don't hear it. The music seems to ramble. I've tried again with a couple of quartets, 7 and 2, prompted by you in fact, but no, I just didn't manage to get into the right frame of mind. I'll try again one day soon.
What are your thoughts on this work?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCeh6amXyYE


I agree that the challenge is less the dissonance than the structure. Dissonance is fine. I also have no grasp on PMD's approach to structure; I find the symphonies to be a linear journey into unpredictability, frankly, with no way to determine why PMD takes the music where he does. It seems chaotic to me, with no meaningful structural overlay. I suspect that is a lack in my own understanding of how this sort of music is put together from a technical perspective, so it is more challenging for me than it might be for others.

As for An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise, I really like this piece. It is obviously far more accessible than the symphonies, and although not as immediately beautiful as Farewell to Stromness, has enough lyricism and attractiveness to be a welcome listening interlude :). PMD says it is unashamedly programme music:

“At the outset, we hear the guests arriving, out of extremely bad weather, at the hall. This is followed by the processional, where the guests are solemnly received by the bride and bridegroom, and presented with their first glass of whisky. The band tunes up, and we get on with the dancing proper. This becomes ever wilder, as all concerned feel the results of the whisky, until the lead fiddle can hardly hold the band together any more. We leave the hall into the cold night, with echoes of the processional music in our ears, and as we walk home across the island, the sun rises, over Caithness, to a glorious dawn. The sun is represented by the highland bagpipes, in full traditional splendour.”

;D
“A quiet secluded life in the country, with the possibility of being useful to people ... then work which one hopes may be of some use; then rest, nature, books, music, love for one's neighbour — such is my idea of happiness"

Tolstoy

Offline Pohjolas Daughter

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 7591
  • Location: USA
Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
« Reply #69 on: November 01, 2021, 07:59:01 AM »
No, he's not an easy listen.  His music is challenging but he has a wide range - you can find very dramatic music in his body of works but also playful works, some are very formal structurally, others toss out formal approaches.  If you like Henze, you should find much to enjoy in PMD.  The big regret I have is that his now defunct website featured tons of performance recordings that weren't commercially available.  I have a personal story to tell of him.  In the mid 1990's, I was a student and heard my local orchestra (San Francisco Symphony) would be performing the world premiere of a work of his with him conducting.  I emailed him and to my surprise, he generously responded and invited me to the rehearsal and asked to meet me after and see my scores.  He might have been the first high profile composer who took interest in me.  I told him nothing about my music, just that I aspired to compose.  He was so gracious.  He added my name to the security list so when I went to Davies Symphony Hall, security stopped me until I told them I was invited, then they found my name (provided by him) and allowed me in to a completely empty concert hall.  They were already rehearsing a work, I believe it was a Haydn Symphony based on memory.  Then switched to PMD's work.  It was complex but this was the first professional orchestral rehearsal I had ever attended.  The music was dense and nothing like I expected based on its evocative title.  There were moments of stillness which I greatly admired.  Immediately after the dense music ended, he turned around and looked for me and waved for me to approach.  I was so nervous.  I had never met someone who had been knighted before.  I understood I should call him Sir Peter and he immediately corrected me with his eye's closed, saying "Please, call me Max".  He was very sweety and invited me back stage to his guest room which was practically a hotel room in the back of the concert hall with a living room, bed, and bathroom.  He cleaned up and sat down with me so interested in hearing about me.  I was embarrassed to tell him, I'm just a student who had nothing played and only dreamed of writing music.  He silently read my music.  He had a very soft voice and asked me, "how badly do why want to write music?"  I had no idea.  I told him I'm obsessed with it and understand that I'm just a student.  He pointed out that my music was too ambitious for my skill but that wasn't bad.  He paused, then put the music down and looked me in the eyes and said "You know, being a composer is a very difficult path.  Are you sure this is what you want?  If there are other things you can do to make a living, choose that instead."  He wasn't at all being dismissive.  His advise lit a fire under me.  In my youth, I really understood him and nothing he could say would dissuade me.  He was a very generous and kind man who tremendously supported new music.  I cherish the time I had with him and regret no photos of this event, but it predated digital cameras.  In a way, he kicked me in to high gear and was a mentor to me.
Did you continue to correspond/discuss your music with him at all after that time?

In any event, what a special encounter for you!  And so kind of him to look over your work and spend time talking with you!  :)

Currently watching that youtube video of An Orkney Wedding With Sunrise.  Quite amusing story and performance.  And was that whiskey or ginger ale that they were serving?! lol

PD
« Last Edit: November 01, 2021, 08:02:55 AM by Pohjolas Daughter »

Offline DaveF

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 874
  • Location: Abergavenny
Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
« Reply #70 on: November 04, 2021, 11:02:52 AM »
Symphony #3
PMD
BBC Philharmonic
Naxos


If you can, do get hold of the Edward Downes recording of no.3.  The sound is fairly unattractive, the acoustic very boxy, but (to my ears) it makes much more sense of the piece.  (Downes takes 7 minutes less than Max overall, which may have something to do with it.)  It's not an easy disc to find, however - there are a few currently on eBay UK, but all from overseas with high postage costs.  I have similar feelings about Simon Rattle's much superior version of no.1, sadly - I say "sadly" because it seems to indicate that Max was far from being the best interpreter of his own works.  (I don't yet know Pappano's recording of no.10.)
"All the world is birthday cake" - George Harrison

Online foxandpeng

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 537
  • Location: Cheshire, UK
  • Currently Listening to:
    Mostly post-1900. Brits. Northern Europeans. Others.
Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
« Reply #71 on: November 05, 2021, 04:27:59 AM »
If you can, do get hold of the Edward Downes recording of no.3.  The sound is fairly unattractive, the acoustic very boxy, but (to my ears) it makes much more sense of the piece.  (Downes takes 7 minutes less than Max overall, which may have something to do with it.)  It's not an easy disc to find, however - there are a few currently on eBay UK, but all from overseas with high postage costs.  I have similar feelings about Simon Rattle's much superior version of no.1, sadly - I say "sadly" because it seems to indicate that Max was far from being the best interpreter of his own works.  (I don't yet know Pappano's recording of no.10.)

Ah, thanks for this, Dave. I will keep my eye out! I will also make it my business to hear the Rattle version of #1 over the weekend.
“A quiet secluded life in the country, with the possibility of being useful to people ... then work which one hopes may be of some use; then rest, nature, books, music, love for one's neighbour — such is my idea of happiness"

Tolstoy

Offline Brewski

  • Global Moderator
  • *
  • Posts: 13057
  • "Man With No Shadow" by Makoto Tojiki (2009)
Eight Songs for a Mad King, today at 2pm EST (7pm GMT)
« Reply #72 on: December 01, 2021, 08:29:08 AM »
Just found out about this live score reading of Eight Songs for a Mad King, today at 2:00pm (EST, 7:00pm GMT) at the link below. The soloist is Julius Eastman, with the Fires of London, conducted by the composer. Afterward, other notable singers who have done the role will be in the chat, to talk about the piece.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tStW8vRDB_s

--Bruce
"Do you realize that we're meteorites; almost as soon as we're born, we have to disappear?"

~Iannis Xenakis

Twitter: @BruceHodgesNY