horizontal line

Jones, a musicologist at Cardiff University and McGregor, emeritus professor of music at the University of Cumbria, guide us through the compositions of the Lancashire-born composer whose death in 2016 still seems too recent for a full appraisal of his importance to modern English opera.

There are insights aplenty, such as that in the early 1980s, Maxell Davies (or ‘Max’ as he was always known) was planning an opera on St Francis of Assisi, but was gazumped by Olivier Messiaen’s much- publicised grand opera on the theme in 1983. As Max put it in a programme note, ‘I thought it hardly worth continuing with the project under the shadows of a recent monumental hagiographic opera on this subject.’

His works for children, another overlooked corner of his catalogue, include The Two Fiddlers (1978), an opera in two acts based upon a short story for young readers by the Scottish poet George Mackay Brown.

Right up to Kommilitonen! (Fellow Students!, 2011), his opera written for the Royal Academy of Music about young people bravely battling segregation in the American South, Nazism in Fascist Germany, and the tyrannies of Mao’s Cultural Revolution in China, Max’s youthful spirit prevailed. Delving into his inspirations is rewarding for all opera lovers.

Benjamin Ivry Read the full review on Agora Classica


   Read full review   


To continue reading, please upgrade to a premium account. You will have immediate full access.



Read more classical music reviews online here:



Opera Now, 2020 - ©Rhinegold Publishing