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Manchester Resonances: Peter Maxwell Davies’s Juvenilia

Jones, Nicholas ORCID: 2020. Manchester Resonances: Peter Maxwell Davies’s Juvenilia. Presented at: 2020 North American British Music Studies Association Conference, Illinois State University [virtual conference], 21–26 July 2020.

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The status of Peter Maxwell Davies as one of the leading British composers of the post-war period is widely recognized and celebrated. He was born in Salford (now part of Greater Manchester) in 1934. At the age of four his family moved to Swinton (a few miles from Salford), and it was there, in 1942, that he began piano lessons and started to compose shortly afterwards. Over the next ten years – up to the Quartet Movement, written in his first year at Manchester University – he was to produce nearly thirty works, the vast majority of which remain unpublished. The main bulk of Davies’s juvenilia was written for piano, including Incantations (1947) and Parade (1949), but several were written for other vocal and instrumental combinations, such as Stehn am Fuss des Gebirgs (c.1950) for unaccompanied chorus, and Five Songs (1950) for soprano, flute, clarinet, harp and string quartet. Not all of the manuscripts for these compositions are currently available, but a number of them have been deposited at the British Library. This paper discusses these archival materials and locates the juvenilia within the broader context of Davies’s compositional development. These works have received very little scholarly attention, and in most cases none at all, yet they offer a fascinating insight into how the composer’s compositional style and technique evolved during these crucial formative years; they also demonstrate an indebtedness to nineteenth- and early twentieth-century composers (such as Chopin and Liszt, as well as French and British stylistic influences) and an acute awareness of contemporary modernist composers (particularly Bartók, Stravinsky and Schoenberg). Nevertheless, the compositional voice is unmistakably Daviesian, and certain stylistic features – distinctive rhythmic, linear and harmonic material – can be traced in his mature music. As a result, this paper argues that Davies’s juvenilia is a significant body of work and must be taken into account when discussing his development as a composer. Various aspects of these early works – as well as the places in which he grew up – resonated powerfully down the subsequent decades and help us to understand more fully the man and the music.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Music
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Date of Acceptance: 23 February 2020
Last Modified: 07 Nov 2022 10:50

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