Nicholas Maw

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Nicholas Maw

John Nicholas Maw (5 November 1935 – 19 May 2009) was a British composer.



Born in Grantham, Lincolnshire, Maw was the son of Clarence Frederick Maw and Hilda Ellen Chambers. He attended the Wennington School, a boarding school, in Wetherby in the West Riding of Yorkshire. His mother died of tuberculosis when he was 14. He attended the Royal Academy of Music on Marylebone Road in London where his teachers were Paul Steinitz and Lennox Berkeley. He then studied in Paris with Nadia Boulanger and Max Deutsch. [1]

From 1998 until 2008, Maw served on the faculty of the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University, where he taught music composition. [2] He had previously served on the faculties of Yale University, Bard College, Boston University, the Royal Academy of Music, Cambridge University, and Exeter University.

Personal life

In 1960, Maw married Karen Graham, and they had a son and a daughter. Their marriage was dissolved in 1976. He took up residence in Washington, DC in 1984, living there with his companion Maija Hay, a ceramic artist, until his death. [1] He died at home on 19 May 2009, at age 73, as a result of heart failure with complications from diabetes. [1]

On Sunday 6 November 2011, BBC Radio 3 broadcast a 2-hour tribute called, "Nicholas Maw: A Celebration". The program featured performances of Maw's Violin Concerto, an orchestral suite drawn from his opera, Sophie's Choice , and two choral works (One foot in Eden still, I stand and Hymnus). [3]


Maw is best known for Scenes and Arias (1962) for three female voices and orchestra, the orchestral pieces Odyssey (1987) and The World in the Evening (1988), the guitar work Music of Memory (1989) and a violin concerto (1993) written for Joshua Bell. His music has been described as neo-romantic but also as modernist and non-tonal (for instance Personæ, his cycle of piano pieces). [1]

In 2002 an opera, Sophie's Choice (based on William Styron's novel), was commissioned by BBC Radio 3 and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. It was premièred at the Royal Opera House under the direction of Sir Simon Rattle, and afterwards received a new production by stage director Markus Bothe at the Deutsche Oper Berlin and the Volksoper Wien, which had its North American premiere by the Washington National Opera in October 2006. Mezzo-soprano Angelika Kirchschlager, who sang Sophie in London, reprised the title role at the National Opera, joined by American baritone Rod Gilfry as Nathan Landau, the schizophrenic man who initially rescues Sophie and then persuades her to join him in a suicide pact. Maw also prepared a concert suite for orchestra based on the music. [1]

A performance of Odyssey took place in BBC's Maida Vale Studios on 9 December 2005, and was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 two days later. Simon Rattle has also conducted a recording of the work with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. [1]

Chronological list of compositions

Works lists may be found online. [4]

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Allan Kozinn (19 May 2009). "Nicholas Maw, British Composer, Dies at 73". The New York Times . Retrieved 26 July 2018.
  2. "Obituaries: Composer Nicholas Maw dies at seventy-three; voice teacher Richard Miller; scholar William Ashbrook; veteran singers Eric Garrett and Robert Nagy". Opera News . 74 (2). August 2009. Retrieved 30 July 2009.
  3. "Sunday Concert: Nicholas Maw: A Celebratio". BBC Radio 3. 6 November 2011.
  4. Nicholas Maw: List of works (pdf), Faber Music, March 2010, retrieved 10 January 2012