Composer Focus – Nicholas Maw

Posted on: October 21, 2011 in: Composer Focus

A former student of Lennox Berkeley and Nadia Boulanger, Nicholas Maw was one of the great British composers to emerge in the late 1950s/early 1960s. A contemporary of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies and Sir Harrison Birtwistle, he came to prominence with the premiere of his Scenes and Arias at the BBC Proms in 1962. He is famous for his attempts to reconnect with the Romantic tradition and its preoccupation with sweeping melodies, which he believed had been broken by the onset of Modernism. His repertoire includes orchestral, chamber, solo instrumental, choral and operatic works, and our concert on Sunday 30 October includes some of the biggest milestones of his career.


His sumptuous Violin Concerto, an expansive piece composed in a Brahmsian manner for a typical nineteenth century orchestra, jointly commissioned by the Philharmonia Orchestra and the Orchestra of St Luke’s, New York, will be performed by international violin superstar Tasmin Little.

Sophie’s Choice was Maw’s final opera, based on William Styron’s eponymous novel on the tragic subject of Auschwitz and a mother’s choice as to which of her two children to send to the gas chambers. The suite will receive its UK premiere at the concert and was drawn from the opera a year after its world premiere at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in 2002. The Suite does not follow the sequence of the opera, but includes the sumptuous orchestral writing (one of the most highly praised facets of the opera).

The concert closes with two beautiful choral pieces, featuring the Holst Singers: One Foot in Eden Still, I Stand, based on a poem by Edwin Muir on the subject of mankind’s Fall in the Garden of Eden, and Hymnus, Maw’s sole work for mixed chorus and orchestra based on two early Christian texts.

Royal Academy of Music students
Holst Singers
Stephen Layton conductor
Christopher Austin conductor*
Tasmin Little violin

Violin Concerto*
Sophie’s Choice Suite
One Foot in Eden Still, I Stand

Nicholas Maw: The Master
Queen Elizabeth Hall
Southbank Centre

Sunday 30 October 7.00pm
FREE pre concert activities from 4.00pm