Obituary: Composer Nicholas Maw of Peabody Conservatory
dies at 73
Maw in an undated
By Richard Selden
British composer Nicholas Maw, a member of the Peabody
Conservatory faculty from 1998 to
2008, died of heart failure in the early hours of May 19 at
his home in Takoma Park, Md. Born in
Grantham, a town of 35,000 in Lincolnshire, England, he had
lived in the Washington, D.C., area since
1984. He was 73.
The Baltimore Sun's classical music critic, Tim
Smith, called Maw "a brilliant thinker with a
charming personality, a creative artist of remarkable
integrity, insight and, I believe, courage."
Describing Maw as "a mighty composer and pedagogue,"
Institute Director Jeffrey
Sharkey said, "Nicholas built Peabody's
Composition Department into one of the world's most
prominent while continuing to compose major works,
including his opera Sophie's Choice."
Maw wrote both the score and the libretto of
Sophie's Choice, based on William Styron's novel
about a Polish Catholic concentration camp survivor in
postwar Brooklyn, N.Y. The story's power and
resonance struck him while watching a video of the 1982
film by Alan J. Pakula starring Meryl Streep.
After the world premiere of Maw's opera in 2002 at the
Royal Opera House Covent Garden in London,
it was staged at the Deutsche Oper Berlin and the Volksoper
Wien in Vienna. Marin Alsop, music
director of the Baltimore Symphony, conducted the American
premiere by the Washington National
Opera in 2006.
In an obituary in The New York Times, Allan
Kozinn wrote that Maw's "unabashedly post-modernist,
neo-Romantic music was admired for its rich textures and
Among Maw's other compositions are Odyssey, an
extended, single-movement orchestral piece,
and Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, written for Joshua
Bell. A recording of Odyssey by the City of
Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under Sir Simon Rattle was
nominated for a Grammy Award in 1992,
and Bell's recording of the concerto won a Grammy Award in
Maw is survived by his longtime partner, Maija Hay;
two children from his marriage to the
former Karen Graham; two sisters; and two grandchildren.
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