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Max unmasked: the life and music of Peter Maxwell Davies

23 December 2021

Peter Maxwell Davies sitting at a desk writing, surrounded by a candle and a statue with an organ behind him.

A huge success at the School of Music with Unmasking Max: Peter Maxwell Davies Concert & Study Day event.

On 4 December the School of Music held a concert and study day event Unmasking Max: Peter Maxwell Davies which highlighted both renowned and underappreciated works and included several talks from high profile speakers.

Peter Maxwell Davies (1934 – 2016) was a leading international post-war composer known for his musical theatre, orchestral and vocal music and in 2004 was awarded the prestigious title ‘Master of the Queen’s Music’.

The selection of talks invited speakers from around the UK and further afield to reflect upon the life and work of the composer commonly known as Max.

Upa Mesbahian of King’s College London dissected the well-known chamber opera The Lighthouse, providing psychological analysis of the characters, while Richard McGregor of the Royal Conservatoire Scotland discussed Max’s methods of composition and the operas Taverner and Resurrection. Other speakers included Rodney Lister (Boston University), Alexander Kolassa (Open University) and two trustees of The Max Trust, Sally Groves MBE and Sylvia Junge.

Students and a composer on stage performing.

A break in the middle of the day presented the opportunity for students of the School of Music’s Contemporary Music Group ensemble to take to our Concert Hall stage for a lunchtime concert entitled ‘’Incarnations: Early Chamber Works’’. This concert, directed by Dr Robert Fokkens, also featured pianist Yihan Jin and soprano soloist Jana Holesworth. The concert comprised of the world premiere of seven of the late composer’s works, five of which were unearthed at the British Library by Nicholas Jones, who also organised the Study Day.

The day was a great success overall, and I would especially like to congratulate all of the performers for their highly committed and wonderfully insightful interpretations.

Dr Nicholas Jones Reader in Musicology

For those who missed it or are looking for a refresher, watch video recordings of the talks from the Study Day. Additionally, keep an eye out for tickets of a performance of Davies’ famed monodrama ‘Eight Songs For A Mad King’ which will be performed at Cardiff University School of Music in May 2022.