PETER MAXWELL DAVIES: The old rebel has a new cause … he tells Ivan Hewett about the inspiration for his Ninth symphony .

"Sir Peter Maxwell Davies is in a bit of a grump. He’s just been giving a lecture at the Royal Academy of Music, and can’t understand why the students are so enthused by the fashionable minimalist music of Steve Reich.

“It’s all so repetitive,” he says. “There’s no proper development.”

This sentiment would surprise anyone who still thinks of Maxwell Davies as a dangerous firebrand. In the Sixties, Maxwell Davies was our very own European-style modernist. He looked like a hippie anarchist with his piercing blue eyes, bush of unruly hair and loon pants. His orchestral piece St Thomas Wake was booed off the stage by a German audience, and his Eight Songs for a Mad King, a portrayal of the descent of King George III into madness, is still shocking after more than 40 years. "


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