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  Nicholas Maw dies  CT News at 09:41 on 20 May 2009

Nicholas Maw, one of Britain's leading composers, whose works include Odyssey and the opera Sophie's Choice, has died in Washington DC, where he lived for the past 24 years, at the age of 73.

  Re: Nicholas Maw dies  skysaw at 17:54 on 17 June 2009

I'm sorry to hear this.

I knew Maw tangentally via mutual friends and had met him on a couple of occassions, including a community orchestra concert in Takoma Park MD many years ago where we each had a piece performed. That must have been very shortly after he moved to DC.

  Re: Nicholas Maw dies  Misuc at 13:42 on 19 June 2009

I knew him in my (and shortly after his) student days. There was a sort of circle with (would-be ?) 'outlandish' people like Cornelius Cardew and other then-'avant-garde' and 'post-serialist' etc. composers. Without ever having been quite part of this coterie he suddenly declared that he now intended to belong to the other coterie (the then-'establishment'.

This vying for positions and patronage from various layers of the outgoing or incoming powers-that-be has been part of the dead hand of the British Imperialist musical bureaucracy, which sees its role at one and the same time as to set standards, to get bums on seats and to keep up with artistic movements in the USA Imperial Home and in the lucrative/prestigious Art Market etc. Jobs and privileges at and through the Tate, music colleges, the BBC, the Arts Council on commissioning bodies etc. are decided on the basis of such semi-feudal allegiances [which network has profitable connections etc.] - or quasi Mafia 'Families'. Even music publishers have to pay due obeisance.

All British composers recognise that this is the case, though most of them claim in public to be entirely opposed to or independent of it. Nicholas Maw was one such. And his aims and potential did stretch further than could be encompassed by these cosy social sets. But you could no more be a performed composer without a sponsoring circle than you can be an MP without a political party. And acceptance by a new set could only be earned by publicly disowning and denouncing the old one. His cosying up to his new friends, his bluntly expressed disdain for his erstwhile comrades or co-conspirators etc. earned him charges of 'treachery'from the other side. Each side accused the other of being agents of the establishment, and both claimed the honour of being the dissidents. In fact the situation was like a more gentlemanly version of what is going on in Iran right now: [a dispute between rival tools of the Islamic State - none of which is the slightest bit concerned with the fate of most exploited women or imprisoned trade union activists].

Although he became the forerunner of the present commonplace neither/nor: mishmash of semi-tonal, semi-atonal, semi-modern, semi-minimal, semi-romantic - half-doing everything by halves which is the the current universal British establishment posture, I find in his work a [different] dynamic which could have taken him beyond all this. In fact I must listen again - it is a long time since anyone actually played any of his music. Perhaps I will find he succeeded. I would like to hear his 'Odyssey' again, and perhaps the Violin Concerto

  Re: Nicholas Maw dies  MartinY at 14:55 on 19 June 2009

Thanks Misuc for such a good summary of the political situation at the time of Maw's development in the UK. There has apparantly been a new art-house film about Cornelius Cardew, has anybody seen it? The Guardian film critic said it was about issues which only interested about 6 people in the world. Do we have the 6 people in this forum?

  Re: Nicholas Maw dies  MartinY at 15:13 on 19 June 2009

Misuc also raised another issue which is composer's music does not get played once they have moved on from influential positions in the various charmed circles of the UK. We all know of several composers who were the golden boys in their youth with prom commissions and a few youth music comissions as a sop to inclusivity and not only is not a note of their music played but younger people will not even know their names.

Why do composers not write music which has the same domestic function as the music of John Jenkins then at least when they disappear from fashion people will still be playing their works at home. That is one way round the first and last performance culture. Of course the music has to be satisfying enough to want to play at home, but when I find a new first rate piece I want to play it at every opportunity until I have 'worn it out' as it were then only play it every 2 years, but certainly not throw it away and never play it again.

Of course I am writing from the angle that music is to be played, not something you sit in rows to be played at you by high priests or some such. An unpopular view.