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‘Death’s dark door stands open’: Peter Maxwell Davies’s Tenth Symphony

Jones, Nicholas ORCID: 2018. ‘Death’s dark door stands open’: Peter Maxwell Davies’s Tenth Symphony. Presented at: 54th Annual Conference of the Royal Musicians Assocation, Bristol, UK, 13-15 September 2018.

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In 2014 Peter Maxwell Davies celebrated his 80th birthday, an occasion that was marked by major performances of his music at numerous international festivals; it also witnessed the premiere of his Tenth Symphony, a work that was written for the most part at a bedside desk at the University College Hospital in London the year before, where Davies was undergoing treatment for leukaemia. On the one hand, the symphony is a meditation on his lifelong fascination with Rome and with the life and work of the Italian architect Francesco Borromini. On the other hand, the work invites reflection on the composer’s coming-to-terms with his own demise, especially in the sense that – to quote Michael Wood – ‘death does sometimes wait for us, and it is possible to become deeply aware of its waiting’. In the final part of the symphony Davies sets Borromini’s last testament as a dramatic quasi-operatic scena with the baritone soloist taking the role of the architect himself. This paper will examine the topic of death and how this affected the way in which the work was composed and how it is received and interpreted; it will also propose the notion of a ‘late style’ in Davies’s music.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Music
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Last Modified: 24 Oct 2022 07:30

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