Nicholas Maw was one of Britain's most admired composers. Born in 1935 in Grantham, Lincolnshire, he studied at the Royal Academy of Music, London (1955-58) with Paul Steinitz and Lennox Berkeley, and in Paris with Nadia Boulanger and Schoenberg's pupil, Max Deutsch.  His career as a teacher included positions at Trinity College Cambridge, Exeter University, Yale University and the post of Professor of Composition at the Peabody Conservatory, Baltimore.
Maw received commissions from major UK musical organisations including the BBC, Glyndebourne Festival Opera, the Royal Opera House, the Philharmonia Orchestra, the Nash Ensemble and the London Sinfonietta, and was featured composer at the South Bank Summer Music, the Kings Lynn Festival, the BBC 'Nicholas Maw Day' at the South Bank (1989), Bath Festival and Chester Festival.

His extensive and varied catalogue includes much chamber music, vocal and choral music, two comic operas - the chamber opera One Man Show (1964) and the three-act The Rising of the Moon (1967-70) - solo instrumental works, and music for children.  Maw is, however, most celebrated for his orchestral music: his reputation being established when, aged 26, he produced Scenes and Arias (1962) for a BBC Prom, which immediately put him right at the forefront of the British musical scene.

In addition to fulfilling other numerous commissions, from 1973 to 1987 Maw composed Odyssey for orchestra - a single, unbroken 96-minute span of symphonic music, lauded since its initial performance in 1987 at the BBC Proms; the subsequent recording by Simon Rattle and the CBSO was nominated for a 1992 Grammy Award and cited by Classic CD in 2000 as the best recording out of a hundred recommended releases in the decade.

Since 1984, Maw divided his time between Europe and the United States, where his music has been taken up by a number of orchestras. However he remained very much a part of musical life in the UK; in 1996 the BBC and the Royal Opera announced a co-commission for an opera based on William Styron's novel Sophie's Choice.  This was premiered in the new Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in December 2002 under the baton of Sir Simon Rattle.

Image credit: 
Maurice Foxall