Page last updated at 16:06 GMT, Tuesday, 19 May 2009 17:06 UK

Odyssey composer Maw dies aged 73

Nicholas Maw, one of Britain's leading composers, has died at the age of 73.

The composer, whose works include Odyssey and the opera Sophie's Choice, died in Washington DC where he had lived for 24 years.

He had been ill for some time and died of heart failure on Tuesday, his spokeswoman told the BBC.

During his career Maw worked with renowned conductors Sir Simon Rattle and Sir John Pritchard, and is best known for his orchestral work Odyssey.

The 96 minute-long piece has been widely lauded since it was first performed at a BBC Prom in 1987.

A recording of Odyssey by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Sir Simon, was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1992.

'Overwhelmed'

Sophie's Choice, based on William Styron's 1979 novel of the same name, was jointly commissioned by the Royal Opera House (ROH) and BBC Radio 3.

It debuted at London's ROH in 2002.

The book, which tells the story of a Polish Holocaust survivor involved in a love triangle, was made into a movie starring Meryl Streep in 1982.

Maw decided to make an opera of the story after being moved by the film, later reading Styron's book.

Speaking in 2002, Maw told the BBC: "I was overwhelmed by the subject matter.

"From the beginning, I thought this would make the most extraordinary subject for an opera.

"I felt that music was a legitimate way of dealing with these grand tragic feelings which are still very much a part of our national, international, personal, emotional and psychological experience."

Royal Academy

After sell out performances in Covent Garden, starring mezzo-soprano Angelika Kirchschlager and under the direction of conductor Sir Simon Rattle, it moved to the Deutsche Oper in Berlin, and the Volksoper Wien in Vienna, Austria.

It had its US premiere by the Washington National Opera in October 2006.

Nicholas Maw was born in Grantham, Lincolnshire, in 1935. He went on to study at the Royal Academy of Music, in London.

His career as a teacher included positions at Trinity College Cambridge, Exeter University, Yale University, and Professor of Composition at the Peabody Conservatory, Baltimore.

Maw's accolades include the 1959 Lili Boulanger Prize, the 1980 Midsummer Prize of the City of London, the 1991 Sudler International Wind Band Composition Competition for American Games and the 1993 Stoeger Prize from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.

His other works include The World in the Evening (1988) and the guitar work Music of Memory (1989).

A recording of Maw's 1993 Violin Concerto, performed by US violinist Joshua Bell, was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize in 2000.



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