First Performances

Peter Maxwell Davies, Symphony No. 10 - LSO and chorus, Barbican Centre, London

William Cole

Sir Peter Maxwell Davies' Tenth Symphony was given its premiere by the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus at the Barbican on 2 February 2014. The work concerns itself with both the architecture and the death of Francesco Borromini; while perhaps an unusual subject for a symphony, there is precedence in Maxwell Davies's work, as the same man is the subject of his Third Naxos Quartet, and the Third Symphony takes Brunelleschi as its subject. Maxwell Davies has suggested direct links between Borromini's creations and his own - in the programme note we discover that 'the precise parameters and proportions by which a huge basilica of Borromini's was constructed' control portions of the work - and indeed the architect's presence pervades the symphony. As well as guiding Maxwell Davies's constructive parameters in the instrumental movements, Borromini is the subject of the chorus' music throughout and almost becomes a character in an operatic scena in the final passage, as he plays out his own suicide to the backdrop of the chorus intoning the names of his most celebrated work. Yet this new symphony rarely betrays its rigorous origins, and aside from passages for percussion mimetic of building activity (hammers, vibraphone, anvils and so on) many aspects in fact suggest a softer, smoother musical language.

Journal Tempo
Year 2014
Volume 68
Issue 269
Pages 69-70

Cole, William (2014) First Performances: Peter Maxwell Davies, Symphony No. 10 - LSO and chorus, Barbican Centre, London. In: Tempo, Vol. 68, No. 269, pp. 69-70. Available at


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