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The Music of Peter Maxwell Davies

20 February 2020

Peter Maxwell Davies at a desk
© Ros Drinkwater, and reproduced by kind permission'

A new book published this week explores the major works and themes of composer Peter Maxwell Davies (1934–2016).

Dr Nicholas Jones of the School of Music has co-written the book in collaboration with Richard McGregor, Emeritus Professor of Music at the University of Cumbria.

Published on February 21, The Music of Peter Maxwell Davies provides a global view of Davies’s music, covering themes which spanned the body of his music while also diving deeper into his major works along with discussion of other selected works.

The themes covered include his compositional technique and process; genre; form and architecture; tonality and texture; allusion, quotation and musical critique; and landscape and place. Using Davies’s own words, articles and programme notes, the book illuminates the composer’s practices and approaches while shaping a discourse around his music.

Davies was one of the leading international composers of the post-war period as well as one of the most productive – his work list encompasses nearly 550 compositions in every established genre. This book is the first of its kind to provide a wide-ranging account of the composer’s entire output.

Dr Nicholas Jones Senior Lecturer

"We were given privileged access by Davies’s Estate to the composer’s private diaries and journals (currently unavailable to the public) and we have been able to draw upon the contents of these in our discussions of the music. We explore the importance of symbolism in his music, and we have more to say than has been known before on this topic. We also discuss the fact that everything Davies wrote had some kind of autobiographical connection.

"The book also considers the juvenilia for the first time, and five of these early works from the late 1940s and early 1950s will receive world premieres here at the School of Music at the Peter Maxwell Davies Study Day on 25 April."

The Music of Peter Maxwell Davies, published by Boydell and Brewer, is out now.

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