Repertoire Search

Peter Maxwell Davies

Publisher: Chester Music

The Last Island for String Sextet (2009)
Chester Music Ltd
Works for 2-6 Players
Year Composed
14 Minutes
Programme Note
Peter Maxwell Davies The Last Island for String Sextet (2009)
Read about this work at

The title refers to the further of two small islands off the coast of Sanday, Orkney, close to my house, which can be reached by foot at low tide. It is home to rare wild flowers and birds, and is reputed to be the resting place of hundreds of shipwrecked mariners who have perished on the rocks through the centuries.

This sextet attempts to invoke the island’s unique atmosphere – essentially peaceful and full of the wonder of ever-changing light of sea and sky, yet strangely threatened with menace, even on the brightest of days.

I have taken some of its most intriguing bird and sea sounds as starting points, and transformed these through a ninefold lunar magic square, which informs the whole structure. There is just one movement, characterised by extreme contrast of tempo and dynamic, with, towards the end, references to an unusual plainsong version of ‘Ave Maris Stella’ (Hail, Star of the Sea), which might have been sung by the small group of monks who lived here before the Reformation, whose ruined chapel still dominates the closer of the two islands.

© Sir Peter Maxwell Davies

Sample Pages

A rich stillness grew out of the mêlée – momentarily perhaps, but powerful precisely for its fleeting yet brooding sense of stillness.
Neil Fisher, The Times,15/10/2009
“It's a haunting piece, full of glassy harmonics and treacherously exposed string-writing that the Nash players negotiated superbly. The music threatens to become a conventional introduction and allegro, yet consistently reins itself in so that nothing gets resolved, and the mood of unease remains.”
The Guardian,15/10/2009
“[The Last Island] is as impressive as anything Maxwell Davies has written during recent years.”
Classical Source,15/10/2009
Close X

Newsletter Signup

Enter your email address to keep up to date with the latest news and special offers from Music Sales Classical.
Your data is secure and you can unsubscribe at any time. Read our Privacy Policy

Click here to receive regular news
© Copyright 2018 Music Sales Classical. Part of the Music Sales Group.