Queen’s writer of music comes to Victoria

Sir Peter Maxwell Davies to give lecture and oversee local ensemble

Sir Peter Maxwell Davies

Sir Peter Maxwell Davies

The man who writes music for the Queen of England will make his first trip to Victoria to see a local ensemble première a composition he wrote for them.

Sir Peter Maxwell Davies – whose duties as the Master of the Queen’s Music recently included writing a symphony for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrating Queen Elizabeth II’s 60th year on the throne – was commissioned by Victoria’s Aventa Ensemble to write a piece for its horn trio.

Aventa artistic director and conductor Bill Linwood waited six years for the music to be written. In that time he never actually spoke to Sir Davies directly.

“We agreed (through Davies’ agents) on the instrumentation we wanted, and from there he was given carte blanche,” Linwood explained. “We really had no idea what we’d get.”

The sheet music for a 15-minute composition called Stormwatch, Stormfall arrived last spring, with a comment from Davies explaining it was inspired by the unusually strong winter storms that had blown amid his remote home in the Orkney Islands, north of Scotland.

The three musicians it was written for – Darnell Linwood on French horn, violinist John Lowry and pianist Miranda Wong – spent their summer piecing together how the music was meant to sound.

“It’s never been recorded, so we have nothing to work off,” Darnell said. “It’s like putting together a puzzle and hoping you have the pieces right.”

The trio will perform the piece for Davies a few days before its public debut.

“He might tell us to bring out certain parts, play something louder or softer, or breathe at a different spot – it’s not likely we’ve been playing it exactly right, but I’m hoping we’re close,” Darnell said. “It’s nerve-wracking. You want him to be proud of what we’ve done with his music.”

The world première of Stormwatch, Stormfall is set for Tuesday, Nov. 1, 8 p.m., at University of Victoria’s Phillip T. Young Recital Hall in the MacLaurin Building. There will also be a pre-concert talk 45 minutes before the show. Tickets are $20 or $18 for students and seniors.

Additionally, Davies will speak on his life and work on Oct. 31, 7:30 p.m., in UVic’s Bob Wright Centre in the Sciences building, a free event arranged by music professor Christopher Butterfield, who saw Davies speak in England many years back.

“He’s very personable and entertaining, and he’s had a long and productive career,” Butterfield said. “When I’d heard he’d be in Victoria, I just thought it would be a shame not to have him speak.”

The 77-year-old composer has written music for operas, ballets and musical theatre. He’s composed eight symphonies, 14 concertos and several orchestral works. Widely recognized as one of the best living composers, Davies was knighted in 1987 and took his position in the Royal Household in 2004.

editor@oakbaynews.com

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