Brown Bread: Nicholas Maw


I read the very sad news in the New York Times of the death of a great British composer. Will the BBC Proms this season, amend some of their programmes to incorporate a composition or two, or even put on his Odyssey? I think not.

I hope his beautiful “lullaby for large orchestra”, The World in the Evening, is given an airing. It deserves to be recorded.

Maw’s championing of the tune and melodic line preserved a touch of sanity in contemporary musical composition. I’m sure his work will live.

He was only in his mid 70s too. His music was probably the most approachable and musically satisfying of contemporary British composers. I particularly like his Violin Concerto.

Although I much prefer his earlier works (Life Studies, Scenes and Arias) to his later ones (Sophie’s Choice), I had hoped that he might write a late great symphony. Still, there is Odyssey for those who can spare the time and the concentration to listen to it. It’s uneven, but I applaud him for writing such a large work for conventional orchestra so late in the 20th century.

The early Sinfonia of 1966, another work of his I enjoy, would probably have been called Symphony No. 1 by many composers, it’s a good thirty minutes in length too.

R.I.P. Nicholas Maw 1935-2009


The Romantic Modernist


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