Sir Peter Maxwell Davies is universally acknowledged as one of the foremost composers of our time. His charismatic and versatile musical personality, coupled with the world-wide spread of performances has meant that he reaches an unusually large and varied public. As the critic in the Wiener Zeitung wrote following a concert of all Maxwell Davies works at the Musikverein in Vienna “A great and significant occasion on the Vienna concert scene and the public took full advantage of it: the Musikverein was almost fully booked and scarcely anyone left in the interval. I know of no other living composer who could bring that off with a programme consisting entirely of his own works.”
His theatrical works include his operas Taverner, Resurrection and The Doctor of Myddfai, chamber operas The Lighthouse (which has received over 100 different productions world-wide since its premiere in 1980) and The Martyrdom of St. Magnus, his full-length ballets Salome and Caroline Mathilde, and five music-theatre works including Eight Songs for a Mad King and Miss Donnithorne’s Maggot which have both become contemporary classics. His orchestral works include nine symphonies, which The Times has called “the most important symphonic cycle since Shostakovich”, the last of which being Symphony No. 9, which he dedicated to Her Majesty the Queen, on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee (2012).
He has written concertos for violin, trumpet, piano, horn and piccolo, and the ten 'Strathclyde Concertos' (written for the principal players of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra), as well as some lighter orchestral works, such as An Orkney Wedding with Sunrise (“the most performed piece of contemporary music”), Mavis in Las Vegas and Swinton Jig. Major works for chorus, soloists and orchestra include The Three Kings, Job and The Jacobite Rising.
Until the age of 75, Maxwell Davies was also active as a conductor, spending ten years as Composer/Conductor of both the BBC Philharmonic and Royal Philharmonic Orchestras, and was Composer Laureate with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. He also conducted many orchestras in Europe and North America, including the Cleveland Orchestra, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony, the Leipzig Gewandhaus, the Russian National Orchestra, the Oslo Philharmonic and the Philharmonia Orchestra.
In the early 2000’s, Maxwell Davies concentrated his compositional efforts on chamber music, including the cycle of ten string quartets which were commissioned by the CD company Naxos and entitled the Naxos Quartets. These were performed in their entirety at the Wigmore Hall in London by the Maggini Quartet over a period of five years between 2002 and 2007, and have all been recorded on Naxos.
Most recently he has written an opera for young singers – Kommilitonen! Young Blood! This was commissioned by the Royal Academy of Music, London, and the Julliard School, New York. It received enormous critical acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic. 2012 saw the completion of his 9th Symphony, premiered by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Vasily Petrenko. This too received high praise amongst audience and critics alike.
Sir Peter Maxwell Davies was appointed Master of the Queen's Music in March 2004.