4 December: Maxwell Davies’s swan terrine

Every day throughout Advent, the season of overindulgence, we’ll be telling a tale of an overindulgent composer


Composer:    Peter Maxwell Davies


How indulgent:  Productively indulgent

How: When a Whooper swan struck a power cable near to Maxwell Davies’ home in Orkney, the resourceful composer decided to use the corpse as a source of meat. The local police soon visited his home since it was illegal to possess the body of a protected species. In his statement, Maxwell Davies ‘offered them coffee and asked them if they would like to try some swan terrine’.

Did you know: Following the incident, the composer remarked that any time served in prison may provide the inspiration for some ‘very interesting music’. Although possessing such a protected species illegally was a serious offence, Maxwell Davies had phoned the Royal Society of the Protection of Birds having discovered the corpse. They recommended he dispose of the swan….

Now indulge yourself with…..  Worldes Blis


This piece provoked strong emotions at its premiere, but not for the right reasons. Most of the audience left the concert hall. However, not everyone was a Scrooge; it divided opinion, with critic Andrew Clements arguing it was one of the top ten premieres at the BBC Proms.