Peter Davison was, for over twenty years, Artistic Consultant to The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester UK, where he created a high-quality classical music program, including the hall’s International Concert Series. He studied Musicology at Cambridge University, writing a thesis on the Nachtmusiken from Mahler’s Seventh Symphony, which led to an invitation to speak about his research at the 1989 Mahler Symposium in Paris. He also contributed to the Festschrift for Henri Louis de la Grange’s Seventieth birthday in 1994. In 2001, he edited Reviving the Muse, a book about the future of musical composition, and in 2010 published Wrestling with Angels about the life and work of Gustav Mahler to accompany The Bridgewater Hall’s acclaimed Centenary Symphony Cycle. He presented a paper at the 2016 Colorado Mahlerfest on the Seventh Symphony.
For the 2019 MahlerFest, Peter Davison will explore the origins and influence of the melancholy hero in romantic literature and music, showing how this archetypal figure inspired Mahler’s Songs of a Wayfarer. The songs in turn provided themes and ideas for Mahler’s First Symphony, which seems largely to repudiate any sense of tragedy. From Shakespeare to Goethe, Schubert to Alban Berg, the misfit outsider, the jilted lover and the sensitive poet have been depicted as desperate and suicidal, representing the crisis of the individual facing the eternal questions of love, life and death. Can the romantic artist find sustainable answers or must he forever repeat cycles of joy and despair?