The Three Kings

Sir Peter Maxwell Davies (1934)

The Three Kings 1995

2.2+ca.2+bcl.2+cbn/4330/timp.2perc/str
Duration 
50
Text Author 
Language 
Commissioner 
Publisher 

THE THREE KINGS is a setting, for soloists, chorus and orchestra, of Christmas poems by the Orcadian writer George Mackay Broen, interspersed with related Latin fragments from fifteenth century carols.

I prepared the text fifteen years ago, but the opportunity to compose the music only presented itself with the present commission.

The work is continuous, there are no breaks between movements: the thematic process is also continuous, the transformations, developments and variations chrstallising out into very clear statements at each Latin sections, which are sung by the chorus in unison. Nos. 1 & 18 are lullabies, the first for a child being told the story of the three kings, the second for the new child himself, marking the departure and arrival points for the whole musical argument: nos. 20&21 together to make a postlude.

The musical material is mined from the same vein as my recent fifth symphony and the choreographic poem. The Baltane Fire, but it is like neither of these, in that modes of expression are closer to the sung vernacular of Orkney, while retaining the same or similar underlying principles of design and process: the actual choral layout draws on my experience writing for my own school choir in Cirencester over thirty years ago, and for the St. Magnus Singers, Orkney, in Solstice of Light, seventeen years ago, but modified and intensified by the more ambitious arcs of continuous transformation.

© Peter Maxwell Davies
August 1995

Performances 
15.10.95 Barbican Hall, London: London Symphony Chorus/London Symphony Orchestra/Richard Hickox
2
Flute
2
Oboe
2nd doubling cor anglais
2
Clarinet
2nd doubling bass clarinet
2
Bassoon
2nd doubling contrabassoon
4
Horn
3
Trumpet
3
Trombone
1
Timpani
2
Percussion
(Esc)