Sir Peter Maxwell Davies

1934 - 2016

Sir Peter Maxwell Davies
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Sir Peter Maxwell Davies

Composer and conductor. Although born in Salford (England), Maxwell Davies lived in the Orkney islands from 1971. He settled first in a croft-house at Rackwick on Hoy, but in 1998 moved to Sanday. He has taken much inspiration from the islands in his prodigious output, which includes eight symphonies, fourteen concertos, chamber music, choral works such as the oratorio Job, the operas Resurrection, The Lighthouse and The Doctor of Myddfai and the ballets Salome and Caroline Mathilde. He has written several works to the poems and stories of the Orcadian author George Mackay Brown (1921-96). Maxwell Davies is also noted for writing for the children of Orkney, these works being launched at the annual St. Magnus Festival which he co-founded in 1977. His Antarctic Symphony was completed in 2000, following a visit to Antarctica in 1997.

As a conductor, Maxwell Davies spent ten years with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (London). He was also conductor of the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra (Manchester) and has regularly worked with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. He has worked internationally with, for example, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony, the Russian National Orchestra and the Oslo Philharmonic.

Maxwell Davies was knighted in 1987, becoming a Companion of Honour in 2014. He was Master of the Queen's Music (2004-14) and a Fellow of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. He died at his home in Orkney, having suffered from leukaemia.

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