On 30th October, two and a half years after his death, Nicholas Maw’s rich, melodic music once again filled the London stage. This memorial concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall drew together many different strands of Maw’s celebrated output, and the performance was a reminder of Maw’s exceptional place in recent music history; a composer whose music was unique in straddling the deep chasm that has long separated the categories of ‘avant-garde’ and ‘accessible.’
Three different groups – the City of London Sinfonia, the Holst Singers and the Royal Academy of Music (where Maw was a student) – along with two conductors - Stephen Layton and Christopher Austin – came together to pay collective tribute to Maw.
As the critics echoed, Maw was one of the greatest composers in his field, and one who we should be hearing a lot more of. The concert will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on Sunday 6th November at 14.00.
‘...listening to a basketful of the late English composer’s compositions, you can certainly understand some reasons for predicting a rosy future. Always his own man, Maw forged a path through 20th-century music that kept springing back to what came just before: communicable music with a romantic sweep and ample melodic line, despatched with structural logic and dazzling instrumental finesse. Passion, in short, plus restraint: a uniquely British mixture.’
The Times (Geoff Brown), 1 November 2011
‘It is often said of Nicholas Maw, who died in 2009, that he was born at the wrong time. The lyrical, predominantly tonal idiom he cultivated from the 1960s onwards – so strikingly at odds with musical styles favoured by his more celebrated contemporaries – suggested his heart was beating with the compositional currents of the early 20th century. Certainly, this was how Maw himself understood it. But one could equally argue that this deeply inventive composer, who drew on techniques and forms for their expressive relevance, was born several decades too early... although Maw's orchestral writing is always something of a revelation, it was the lesser-known choral pieces that left the deeper impression here, with the unaccompanied setting of Muir's One Foot in Eden and the long and enthralling Hymnus... this was a timely reminder of the richness of Maw's idiom...’
The Guardian (Guy Dammann), 1 November 2011
‘He isn’t performed with anything remotely like the frequency he deserved – a fact that remains as perplexing as ever after this wonderful day... Maw’s work has always been a particularly special case because he shunned a great many of the techniques that have been “all the rage,” and pursued his own highly individual path through thick and thin... Maw was always anxious to digest any music on offer, and had no hesitation in using elements from all manner of sources to assist his own creativity... In fact his genius was to absorb everything from here, there, and everywhere, and make a language which became very much his own.... I strongly suspect that in years to come he will quite possibly be revealed to have been one of the very greatest composers of his day.’
Seen and Heard International (Christopher Gunning), 1 November 2011