Obituary: British composer Nicholas Maw, 73

Posted on: May 20, 2009

In Wednesday’s (5/20) New York Times, Allan Kozinn reports, “Nicholas Maw, a British composer best known for a sumptuous Violin Concerto he composed for Joshua Bell and a powerfully emotional opera based on William Styron‘s ‘Sophie’s Choice,’ died on Tuesday at his home in Washington. He was 73. … Mr. Maw’s ‘Sophie’s Choice,’ which he composed over six years after watching a videotape of the 1982 film version, had its premiere at Covent Garden in London in 2002. Mr. Bell’s 2000 recording of the Violin Concerto, which Mr. Maw wrote for him 1993, won a Grammy Award as well as the Mercury Prize. Mr. Bell has performed the piece around the world. Mr. Maw’s unabashedly post-modernist, neo-Romantic music was admired for its rich textures and assertive melody. Yet it also had rigorous modernist underpinnings, and it bore the hallmarks of its time. … Moreover, he was at his best when working on a large scale: his 96-minute, single-movement ‘Odyssey’ (1987), widely regarded as his magnum opus—and said to be the longest piece of continuous symphonic music ever written—is a remarkable structure that explores a 44-bar theme in lush, Straussian textures.”

Posted May 20, 2009