Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, composer and former Master of the Queen’s Music, has died at the age of 81 after a long battle with leukemia.
Born in Salford, Lancashire on 8 September 1934, Maxwell Davies attended the Royal Manchester College of Music (now Royal Northern College of Music). There he became part of the so-called ‘Manchester school’, a centre of avant-garde classical music in the 1960’s. He later took up a fellowship at Princeton, where he studied under Milton Babbitt and Roger Sessions, and became a leading figure in the world of contemporary music. Just last month he was awarded the Royal Philharmonic Society Gold Medal. Previous recipients of this prestigious award include classical giants such as Brahms and Vaughan Williams.
Knighted for services to music in 1987, he served as Master of the Queen’s Music from 2004-2014, though he was controversially not commissioned to compose a work for the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011.
Maxwell Davies was also an experienced conductor and guest-conducted orchestras around the world. He had particularly close relationships with the BBC Philharmonic and Royal Philharmonic, where he was associate conductor and composer for ten years, and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, where he was composer laureate.
‘Max’, as he was widely known, moved to the Orkney Islands in 1971, where he lived for the rest of his life. In 1977 he founded the St Magnus Festival which takes place annually in the Orkney Islands. Alongside performances from international artists, the festival prides itself on involving members of the local community in performances. The festival chorus – 130 singers from across the islands – performs each year.
Maxwell Davies’s children’s opera ‘The Hogboon’ will be posthumously premiered in June 2016 by Sir Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra at The Barbican.