SPIRITED THINKING SINCE 1888
Peter Davison

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May 29, 2020
The loss of all live concerts is surely one of the saddest impacts of the current health crisis, and we should spare a thought for those freelance musicians who, even in the best of times, live close to the breadline. True, there are some brave attempts to use online technology, but we all know it
December 12, 2019
During the festive season, tradition holds sway. Families and communities come together, while our thoughts return to the securities of childhood. Singing carols and listening to much-loved music are the stuff of idealised memory to which, in troubled times, we cling more than ever. Yet the Christmas story has a radical edge, revealing divine purpose
November 21, 2019
Some years ago, I attended a live performance of Berlioz’s titanic Requiem, played by a combined ensemble comprising the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and the Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre. It was a spectacle unlikely to be repeated, so you can imagine my surprise when I was presented with a free mass-produced CD of
October 31, 2019
The Cornish composer George Lloyd (1913-98) experienced an unlikely renaissance during the 1980s, leading to new creative partnerships. The Albany Symphony Orchestra commissioned his Eleventh (1985) and Twelfth (1989) symphonies, completing a cycle the composer had begun six decades earlier. At this point, Lloyd could easily have ceased composing, but he received commissions for two
October 10, 2019
Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934) is often caricatured as an establishment figure, while in truth he was a sensitive outsider. Born near Worcester into a lower middle-class family, his mother took the unusual step of converting to Catholicism, insisting her children be brought up in the faith. Her husband, who was the organist of St George’s
September 12, 2019
In the early 1980s, I was lucky enough to sing evensong four times a week with the Chapel Choir of Jesus College, Cambridge. It was always a thrill whenever we performed the music of Herbert Howells (1892-1983). His ethereal harmonies seemed to float into the chapel’s high spaces with spine-tingling intensity, often supported by an
August 22, 2019
The composer Gerald Finzi (1901-56) was shy, modest and sensitive. Descended on his father’s side from Italian Jews, the Finzis were otherwise a typical middle-class English family until a series of childhood tragedies contributed to Gerald’s extreme introversion. He lost his father when he was eight, and his three elder brothers died before he had
August 01, 2019
In 1860, Gustav Mahler was born into a German-speaking Jewish family in the Bohemian village of Kaliště, then part of the Austrian empire. When, seven years later, Jews gained full citizenship, Mahler’s father Bernard was eager to take full advantage. He projected his ambition upon his musically gifted son who, aged 15, was sent to the
July 04, 2019
The British composer George Lloyd, who died more than 20 years ago, remains a neglected figure. He had the misfortune to live through the post-war period, when modernist experimentation became the prevailing fashion and composers like him, who believed in writing lyrical music in traditional forms, were often derided. The experience was especially painful because