Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Peter Maxwell Davies: Source book
Edited by Stewart Craggs
Published by Ashgate Publishing Ltd. 2002
Hardback 318 pages
ISBN 1-85928-042-0

MusicWeb price £42.50

This is the fifth in Stewart Craggs’ useful collection of source books, following on from his previous volumes on Lennox Berkeley, Walton, Elgar and Bliss. The objective in each case has been to draw together an authoritative reference volume capable of forming the basis for further research and investigation. Craggs has the ideal credentials for a project of this kind, being a former music librarian and the retired Professor of Music Bibliography at Sunderland University.

In many ways the greatest problem with Maxwell Davies is where to start given the sheer enormity of his output. He is without doubt one of the most prolific British composers at work today. Couple this with the significant number of pieces, many of them miniatures, that have been written for particular occasions of personal significance or for performance by close friends (a good number of which remain unpublished) and the task that Stewart Craggs has taken on begins to come into perspective. Incredibly a simple line-by-line listing of Davies’ works alphabetically runs to eighteen pages.

Craggs divides his material into six categories. The first comprises the aforementioned listing of works alphabetically, in which each piece bears its "J" number, so given by the composer in honour of his manager since 1975, Judy Arnold. There follows a year-by-year chronology of important events in the composer’s life including those of personal importance and otherwise. The most substantial part of the book by far however is taken up by a comprehensive catalogue of works in which information is collated on details such as the name of the commissioning body or person, the whereabouts of the first performance, publication dates, where the manuscript resides and information on any available recordings. Where possible there is also a bibliography quoting references to specific works drawn from the national press and music journals. It is here that Craggs is at his most painstaking in his research, with extensive information on the more well known and larger-scale works and as much information as it has been possible to gather on the others. Understandably there are certain pieces where it has proved impossible to trace details of first performance etc but Craggs has also made considerable inroads into tracing information not previously available. In conclusion there is a general bibliography dealing mainly with biographical elements of the composer’s life and finally a classified index of works by category and a general index.

At approaching fifty pounds I would not expect this book to be entering the collections of anyone but those with the utmost appetite for and interest in Max’s music. As a reference book however it is invaluable and along with the composer’s own website, is likely to be the definitive source of information on the composer’s works for some years to come.

Christopher Thomas


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