Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Sir Peter Maxwell Davies and Orkney

I’ve just returned from a visit to Orkney where, being very fortunate with the weather, I was able to see the sort of landscape that has greatly inspired the music of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies since he first visited there in 1970. In fact the relative calm during my visit probably contrasted immensely with the stormy weather that often inspired Max.

The St Magnus Festival, founded by Sir Peter in 1977, doesn’t start until 22nd June but it was good to see that bookings are good with many events already sold out. www.stmagnusfestival.com

My own visit was to enjoy the landscape and ancient sites but, during my walk out to see the Old Man of Hoy, I caught sight of, Bunertoon (meaning ‘above the town’), Sir Peter’s home from 1975 until moving to Sanday a few years ago. Perched high on a cliff top above Rackwick Bay, facing the Pentland Firth, Bunertoon is a simple little croft set in an awe inspiring location.

One serious drawback to the timing of my visit was that I could not attend the premiere of Max’s Ninth Symphony at Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool. Luckily there will be a Proms performance on 23rd August 2012. www.bbc.co.uk/proms

Reviewers of the Liverpool concert seem to find a contradiction in that this new symphony, lasting around 25 minutes, should be written for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, yet also show anger at our country’s military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Given Sir Peter’s views on these conflicts and that they occurred in our present Queen’s reign, it seems to me entirely relevant. However, as I am yet to hear this new work I am in no position to make any real judgement. What I do know is that I am looking forward to the Prom performance immensely.

As for Orkney, I know that I will want to return to this magical place.

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