Something quite remarkable in the historyof music is happening in Scotland right now. Not since the time of l laydn at the Royal (‘ourt of Prince listerha/y has a composer been asked to write substantially for : one particular orchestra. Yet. by
' commissioning Sir Peter Maxwell
O l)aviestowritc a sericsoften
concertos for the principal players of
the S( '( ) over the next six or seven years. Strathclyde Regional (‘ouncil
. finds itself following in these illustrious royal footsteps of 200 years ago. The first. Strathclyde
('oncerto .Vt) I. written for the
orchestra and its principal ohoist.
' Robin Miller. will he premiered at
l (ilasgow‘s ( 'ity Hall on Friday 2‘) and
i then repeated at the ()ueen'sllall in
; lidinburgh on Saturday 3“ April.
j Sir Peter Maxwell Davies has a
1 strong relationship with the St ‘0.
hay ing held the somewhat unusual
; (‘onductor for the past few years.
Between recording Mozart's Prague
7 symphony for Swiss TV and rehearsing the Jupiter for concerts in
lidinhurgh and ( ilasgow. he explains
f the background as being ‘all very
i simple. I started to work with the
S(‘() really by chance. because the
conductor .lames (‘onlon. who was going to record Into the Labyrinth. which I wrote for Neil Mackie and
i the orchestra. was Ill. So. at the last I possible moment. without hay ing
1—2'l‘helist is :s Apia l‘lss
, :3? .4 4-4. Strttt/iclytlc (‘mzcert No l by Sir Peter M
ever conducted this orchestra before. I faced them in the ( ‘ity l-lall very. very nervously and we did that recording and I think we got on quite well .‘ They must have done. because invitations to conduct more of his own compositions were followed by invitations to conduct lladyn. Mozart and other classical music. further commissions. the formal
appointment and then. says Sir Peter
‘it was suggested it might be a good idea to tie upthis ratherofficial sounding relationship by having some kind of regular commitment. And I thought why not write concertos'.’ I'd just written a violin concerto for lsaac Stern. l'd never written a concerto before and I found I enjoyed it and took to the medium.‘ A nothcr attraction was. he says. ‘the chance to learn an awful lot about these instruments and to develop a marvelloLIs musical relationship. I thought this idea was just marvellous and said ‘Yes. you bet‘. [is the kind ofcomposer's task anybody would jump at.. Manchester born. but domiciled very happily on lloy in the Orkney Islands —- with no telephone and until recently no electricity ~ since the early Seventies. Sir Peter (or Max. as he‘s known locally) speaks of composing in that w :ld vetting. saying 'it s got into the music somehow By some kind. of transformation or w mi Ms. l don't
axwell Davies is premiered in (ilasgow this month. ()rkney‘s adopted composer spoke to (‘arol Main about a unique relationship with Strathclyde Regional Council.
know how‘. and thinking ofthc Violin (‘oncerto he says ‘You can smell the place in the piece. but I just can't explain it.‘ The ()boe (‘oncerto has been finished for some time now. and it is the .Strttlltt'lyt/e ( 'oncerto .N't) 2. for S( '0 principal cellist William (‘onway. more recently completed and scheduled for performance next .lanuary. whose composition is fresh
in the composer's mind. as he recalls.
‘I heard the most extraordinary noises. which I put into the piece as well as I could. Suddenly. in the hay. there was the most enormous shoal offish. probably millions oftails thrashing in the sunlight out ofthc water. The sea birds were having a wonderful time and. of course. with the cliffs all round it echoed and the sound of that was just quite extraordinary. I shall never forget it and can't describe it'. ()fthe oboe concerto. he says ‘it stems from a p'lainsong. Ditm (‘()nl[)l(’r¢’nfllr Dies l’entet‘ostt'v. and the image of tongues of fire around the protagonists in the New Testament drama was in the back of my mind throughout the writing of the concerto.’
Living in ()rkney has inspired Max's music in other ways too. As he says. ‘Being in a place without mechanical sounds and without the disruptions of other people~ you have to concentrate on yourself and come to terms with yourself. It's a
lovely place and presents me with ideal work conditions. where one can get very long basically uninterrupted work processes going. so the pieces evolve.’ And also. there's the St Magnus Festival. Max’s idea. but which he no longer directs. which has given him the opportunity to write for the people who live there. from songs for pupils at the local school on lloy to local amateur choirs or the endless stream of music-theatre and opera for children. To a great extent the
success of this can be measured in his
words. ‘lt‘s nice when people say their kids come home singing the tunes you wrote. ’l‘hat makes you feel good.‘
Very close to his heart is another aspect of the Strathclyde concertos. which takes them into the classrooms ofchildren in Strathclyde Region is therefore very close to his heart. ‘lt‘s fine having someone writing concertos for a chamber orchestra as a posh one-offevent for people who go to. say. the ()ueen's llall.’ he says. ‘but I think having seen it in ()rkney. the way that music can. through the schools. get to a community is awfully important. I thought it would be marvellous to actually use these pieces as a springboard for tapping the creativity ofyoung people in the various schools. Strathclyde is very go ahead and absolutely hats off to it.‘ Already the project. led by Scottish composer Bill Sweeney and with Robin Miller visiting schools with his oboe and piano accompaniment. is yielding positive results. which can be heard at Kelvingrove Art (iallery on Monday 18 April when pupils perform their own compositions in music and dance with the S('( ). This idea will go on through all the concertos with a different composer involved. which again pleases Sir Peter very much. ‘I just feel that. particuarly now. when in some ways education is becoming more and more for those who can pay for it. or rather whose parents can pay for it and go hang the rest. it‘s very touching a region like Strathclyde really does believe in education to such an extent that it's prepared to bring a bit of brightness into people's lives. I just hope that in the long term it raises milsical consciousness in the area by getting
people practically involved. realising
that the creation of intisic is not anythingspecial.‘
lit the midst of a hectic concert and recording schedule. both in this country and abroad. including a big tour of America at the end ofthc year with Sir Peter and two recordings on the new Virgin (‘lassics l.abe| finally launched earlier this month. these Strathclyde ('oncertos are a special highlight not just for the S(‘(). but for their audiences. both new and old. who might just. like the children of ()rkney. go home singing the tunes.
.Stttt/it'li'tle ( 'nnt‘erto No / nil/he premiered (If (ilttsgow'v ('t'ty Hall on Fri 3‘) .‘l/U'I/ and (II the ()m't'n \ Hull. [:t. " ..re/z on Stir in 'lprtl.