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Work of the Week – Sir Peter Maxwell Davies: The Hogboon

On 26 June, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’ last large-scale work, The Hogboon, will be premiered by the London Symphony Orchestra and Sir Simon Rattle, joined by the London Symphony Chorus, LSO Discovery Chorus and Guildhall School Musicians at the Barbican Hall, London. The work was commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg and Philharmonie Luxembourg.

The Hogboon is a children’s opera which tells the story of Magnus, a young Orkney Islander who, with the help of a friendly Hogboon (a household troll), sets out to defend the village from the feared sea monster, Nuckleavee.

Completed shortly before his death in March,The Hogboon was particularly close to Maxwell Davies’ heart as an Orkney resident and a passionate advocate for music education. The composer wrote the libretto himself, based on an Orkney folk tale. He took great pleasure in creating a work for combined professional and student forces, assigning the children’s choir the roles of the angry sea monster and the witch’s kittens. The opera also bears an ecological moral: we must take care of nature if we wish to live alongside it.

Bearing in mind the involvement of children and students, I have not written down to them with any condescension – rather – I have written up, knowing, from long experience, that, taken absolutely seriously, children and students are wickedly perceptive, and not to be taken for granted. I have attempted to make the masque work on several levels, of interest to adults, students and children, with weavings into the work’s verbal and musical textures diverse layers of meaning not least to do with our accommodations with Nature, and our present ecological problems.– Maxwell Davies

The Hogboon can next be seen in Luxembourg with the Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra in May 2017. Following the premiere of The Hogboon in London, a free memorial event in Maxwell Davies’ honour will take place at St John’s Smith Square on 27 June. Included in the programme are two of his last works, The Golden Solstice (2016) for choir and organ and String Quartet Movement 2016, receiving its premiere performance. For more information and booking go to: